Ep. 121: Task Initiation – Why It’s Hard and Strategies for Success with Jenny Drennan and Hannah Ross

Feb 21, 2023 | 0 comments

The ability to get started on a task right away even when you don’t feel like doing it is an executive functioning skill for students and adults. And it’s not just an academic skill, it’s a life skill. That’s why it is an important topic and discussing it can help a lot of students and their families.

Returning to the podcast are Jenny Drennan and Hannah Ross. Jenny and Hannah have both been on the podcast before but as separate interviews. Now they are together to talk about task initiation and the work they do with students to help them get the ball rolling. Not only do they beautifully explain task initiation and why it is hard, but they provide strategies to use at home and at school, for both children and adults, to help with this struggle.


Show Notes:

[2:44] – Task initiation is misunderstood and often associated with laziness and motivation.

[3:46] – Students developmentally don’t have the self-talk skills yet to talk themselves through starting a task.

[5:03] – At school, this can look like a student not working on assignments or taking a long time to get started.

[6:12] – When we struggle to gain momentum on a task, it is likely a task that is something we aren’t looking forward to or is daunting.

[7:23] – Task initiation brings up a lot of conflict in families.

[9:21] – It’s important to know that this struggle is human nature and that we all have tasks that are challenging to start. But there are factors that make it harder for some.

[11:33] – Lack of interest in the task can also lead to struggling with starting it.

[12:53] – Part of the work Jenny and Hannah do is help parents in interacting with their child that struggles with task initiation.

[14:42] – There are also ripple effects to struggling with task initiation.

[16:03] – When students can unlock what helps them initiate tasks, they are usually less anxious and stressed as well.

[17:40] – This isn’t just an academic skill. It’s a life skill.

[18:37] – Modifying distractions is a strategy to help students in their environment.

[20:18] – Routines are also very helpful but can be difficult to stick to.

[21:32] – Breaking a task into smaller chunks is a great way to make a large task approachable and manageable.

[23:29] – Scheduling breaks is helpful for some students but is used on a case by case basis.

[25:35] – Modify the instructions in a school task to be less detailed and use verbs.

[28:19] – Allow students to make mistakes and focus on the process instead.

[29:45] – A student’s experience needs to also be validated.

[31:20] – Modeling task initiation and using your own self-talk out loud when you don’t want to do something is a great way to help develop the child’s self-talk.

[32:44] – You can download a free guide that includes strategies for task initiation by clicking here.  Be sure to also check out the links below.


About Our Guests:

Jenny Drennan is a Certified Educational Therapist and Founder of WeThrive Learning, Jenny specializes in supporting students with ADHD, and math and writing challenges. Drawing on best practices and the latest research, her practice provides 1-1 support for students and families globally. She is certified by ImpactParents as a Sanity School® behavior therapy program trainer and is attaining her certification as a  dyscalculia specialist by the Association of Dyscalculia. 

Hannah Ross is a professional educational therapist based in Los Angeles, California. Her practice, Summit Learning, specializes in providing dyslexia remediation, as well as executive function coaching to learners of all ages, both in person and virtually.   Hannah currently serves as the vice-president of the International Dyslexia Association of Los Angeles, in addition to being a member of the Association of Educational Therapists. 


Connect with Jenny and Hannah:

Links and Related Resources:


Trying to figure out next steps in supporting your child?  Book a 1:1 consultation with Dr. Karen Wilson – https://www.childnexus.com/consultation 


Join our email list so that you can receive information about upcoming webinars – ChildNEXUS.com

The Diverse Thinking Different Learning podcast is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or legal advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the views and opinions expressed by the host and guests are not considered treatment and do not necessarily reflect those of ChildNEXUS, Inc or the host, Dr. Karen Wilson.