Ep. 12: Executive Functioning Support for Struggling Learners with Hannah Ross

Jan 12, 2021 | 0 comments

Now that we know what executive functioning is from last week’s episode, what can we do to help students struggling in this area? We know that this broad umbrella term encompasses so many different skills so it may seem difficult to know where to start. That’s why I’ve asked Hannah Ross to join us today on the Diverse Thinking Different Learning Podcast.

Hannah is a certified educational therapist based out of Santa Monica, California with over ten years of experience teaching in the classroom and one-on-one settings. Her classroom experience gives her a great insight into what students are expected to do at a young age and how these struggles impact them on a daily basis. Not only do we discuss executive functioning in more depth, but Hannah takes it a step further and provides us with some tangible things we can do to provide support to our children and students to help develop executive functioning skills.


Show Notes:

[2:04] – Hannah graduated with a degree in Elementary Education and taught 3rd and 4th grade. She loved the community, but she started to notice how she couldn’t meet the needs of all of her students.

[3:08] – She found herself wanting to spend more time one-on-one with struggling students but as a classroom teacher, it was near impossible. She then researched what else she could do and she shifted into being an educational therapist.

[4:21] – Because Hannah has experience in the classroom, it continues to help her as an educational therapist because she understands how hard teachers are working and what is expected of teachers and students.

[5:29] – The most successful cases are when the educational therapist and the teacher can communicate and collaborate.

[6:20] – Executive functioning skills are the skills that all people need to use on a daily basis to get things done. These are skills everyone is using everyday, not just what kids are using in school.

[7:40] – Using cooking a meal as an example, Hannah illustrates how we use executive functioning skills everyday.

[8:34] – When we think about kids who are struggling with certain executive functioning skills, we need to also remember that there are skills we as adults are weaker in, too.

[9:07] – Hannah describes what a student with executive functioning struggles looks like. What are the indicators that they are struggling?

[10:41] – Weakness in executive functioning skills does not reflect intelligence. These skills are still developing.

[11:18] – Although these skills start developing at age 3, they don’t fully develop until age 25. Some kids pick things up naturally where other students need to be taught explicitly.

[13:37] – Hannah and Karen discuss the challenges of virtual learning. We’re not just expecting students to learn content, but we are also expecting them to be able to use their working memory skills to manage multiple online programs and portals.

[15:02] – It is much harder to plan and prioritize when students are not turning in a tangible item as an assignment. 

[16:14] – Students don’t have cues and check-ins that they normally have in the classroom environment which is causing a challenge for kids to manage their time and transitions.

[17:53] – So much is expected of our students right now and most students really do want to do their very best and they may feel discouraged when they struggle with the amount to manage.

[19:23] – Hannah recommends starting off by creating a routine and schedule that is consistent. She also mentions managing independent work time with a checklist.

[21:11] – Another thing that Hannah will do with a student is to look at a full week’s schedule and plan everything out with colors to be easier to visualize.

[23:04] – One of the most impacted executive functioning skills through virtual learning is extended focus. With students, Hannah will help figure out some tricks and strategies to help.

[24:39] – Hannah also works with students on academic work and content by helping them break things down into manageable chunks.

[27:01] – Self-reflection is very helpful, so asking students the questions about how these skills are impacting their daily lives is a great place to start.

[28:19] – Students who struggle with executive functioning skills often appear to be lazy or unmotivated when in reality, they want to do well but don’t know how to use these skills.

[30:38] – Creating a family calendar and an individual calendar for each child in your household is great to help students with these skills and model good planning and organizing skills.

[31:31] – Helping your child create a calendar or daily checklist of their virtual learning school day to keep in their learning space is also something that Hannah recommends.

[32:45] – Hannah also shares that there are many things you can do together as a family that utilize these skills such as cooking a meal or planning a fun day with a schedule.

[34:20] – Use conversation to tie these fun activities to how using these skills in their school day helps them.

[35:00] – Board games are also excellent for executive functioning skills and are really fun to do as a family. There’s a link to some recommended games in the Links and Resources.

[36:47] – Modeling the steps to get something done is important for parents to do for their children. Talking through the steps is a good way for children to hear the process.

[38:29] – Students may feel embarrassed by these deficits they’re experiencing but Karen illustrates how this needs to be more normalized so problem solving can take place.


About Our Guest:

After graduating from Pepperdine University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, as well as my California Teaching Credential, Hannah taught 3rd and 4th grade at an independent school in Pasadena for five years. She loved the excitement and community of working as a teacher, yet in the classroom environment she began to notice students who were not receiving the academic support they needed to be successful. Hannah observed students who lacked skills in specific academic areas, couldn’t focus on work in the classroom setting, or simply lacked confidence in their ability as learners. While she tried her best to meet the unique needs of each student, she realized that many of these students would benefit from more targeted, one-on-one instruction. This led her to further her own education in the field of Educational Therapy.

In 2015, Hannah earned her Certificate of Educational Therapy from University of California Riverside and became an active member of the national Association of Educational Therapists (AET) and the International Dyslexia Association (IDA). In her practice, Hannah and her team work with a wide variety of learners, including students with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, ADHD, Autism, executive functioning deficits, and more. At Hannah Ross Ed Therapy Group their ultimate goal is bringing back the love of learning to students as they seek to make content both engaging and accessible.


Connect with Hannah Ross:

Links and Resources: