Thank you to all the people who contacted me last week and shared their excitement about the upcoming Shakti Badge program – I am excited too! I am happy to report that the Shakti Badge Team is already writing the descriptions and the criteria for the fall badges, which will be unveiled at our Fall Equinox Celebration (September 22). Save the date, bring a dish to share for the potluck dinner, and be ready for some nerd fun!
As some of you know, licensed therapists are required to earn continuing education units (CEU’s) in order to maintain their license. In my quest to earn CEU’s, I chose to learn more about executive functioning, specifically strategies for improving attention, memory, and self-regulation. I am only a few hours into the 18-hour course, and I have already learned so much.
Because so many of us complain about feeling distracted, I wanted to share some course highlights with you. I also want to differentiate between feeling distracted by digital messages and having a neurodivergent diagnosis. While the tools and strategies used to improve attention, memory and self-regulation can help everyone, I do not want to lose sight of the diversity of needs on the neurodiverse spectrum. If you have tools and strategies that you use, then please share! I want to improve my understanding of the way brains work.
In the online course, Improving Executive Function, Dr. George McCloskey, psychologist and author of Assessment and Intervention for Executive Function Difficulties, made an important distinction between having the skills to complete a task and knowing when to apply those skills. According to Dr. McCloskey, people with executive functioning difficulties struggle to complete an assignment because they do not know when to engage the part of their brain that has the skill to complete the task. Once prompted, this same person can complete the task.
Folks who struggle with knowing when to engage their brain benefit from strategies which both recognize the problem and set goals for addressing the problem. Often in a school setting, adults tell children when to do something and do not teach children how to recognize when to do something. Remember the idiom: “Teach a person to fish and you feed them for a lifetime?” Strategies which help folks move from ability to skill support a lifetime of executive functioning.
McCloskey warns that interventions need to be practiced often and with a growth mindset. People who work with neurodivergent people need to believe that change is possible and be flexible to adapt interventions to address individual needs. In other words, educators and clinicians must adjust the support given based on how the individual is responding to the intervention. One-size does not fit all.
L: Thank you Ellen for making more kombucha for the community! R: For last Friday’s potluck, we made sauce with the tomatoes and basil from the Shakti garden.
Educators and clinicians also need effective ways to address their own frustrations. Let’s face it: a lot of us work in or with systems that are indifferent at best and critical at worst to individuals who are different. When you consider the environment of the intervention as well as the pressure to produce results, is it any wonder that educators and clinicians can feel frustrated and even scared of being punished? Advocating for the needs of the client as well as managing administrator expectations is key to providing ethical and sustainable care.
Keeping in mind the need to observe and adjust, here are some strategies for moving from ability to skill:
- Strategies need to be taught step by step. It is easy to overwhelm someone by giving them too many directions at once. Instead lay out the directions one step at a time. People need space to understand what is being asked of them as well as space to ask for clarification or help.
- A strategy must be rehearsed multiple times over multiple sessions. It is not effective to demonstrate an intervention once and then walk away. For a strategy to become ingrained, a person must have ample time to rehearse. How much time is ample, you ask? Dr. McCloskey says ample is until the person learns the skill. There is no definitive amount of time.
- Practicing a strategy must include feedback. Have you ever learned a technique and practiced it over and over only to discover you are doing it wrong? I have. Now imagine that you struggle with the ability to modulate: a common struggle in folks with ADHD. How do you know when something is “too much” or “not enough?” You don’t… unless you receive feedback. McCloskey said most people need help knowing where the line is (too much) and where they are in relation to the line (where someone wants to be). Giving clear and respectful feedback is imperative to creating change.
- Use reflective questioning to extrapolate the skill across environments. Reward and punishment do not teach executive functioning skills. Staying curious and asking the student/client what they think and why they think that teaches problem solving skills. Inviting someone to notice how they approach a problem and how they think about possible solutions gives someone an opportunity to uncover new strategies and to understand their underlying motivations.
Lastly, I invite you to sit with a question posed by Adrienne Maree Brown in her book Emergent Strategy. (p.71)
Do your reactions create space for opportunity, possibility and continuing to move towards your vision?
No strategy is effective if our reactions shut down opportunity, possibility and vision. Observe yourself and notice how you speak to yourself as well as to others, especially people who have asked you for help or guidance. There is no amount of learning that can compensate for a fixed mindset or an intolerant belief.
Wishing you a wonderful week!
Kim Bushore-Maki is a soul-driven entrepreneur who understands the undeniable urge to create a business and a life filled with meaning and purpose. Her vision of opening a center where people could heal and grow led her to open Shakti in the Mountains in Johnson City, Tennessee: a place where the creative, feminine energy is nurtured and valued.
Kim is a licensed professional counselor and a yoga teacher. She completed the Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy program as well as the Shake Your Soul Yoga Dance program. Kim is very interested in somatic expressive therapy, archetypal psychology, gardening, herbalism, astrology, wisdom traditions, and regenerative economics.
Kim continues to build and to support inclusive, vibrant communities. She spends most of her time mentoring leaders, guiding healing programs, and providing mental health counseling.
Sign up here to receive updates on free community events, workshops, and more.
Shadow Work: Uncovering our Unconscious Needs
A 6 week series
To support emerging leaders, the Shadow Work series is being offered this fall to build resilience and freedom. The goal of this series is to unearth your unconscious needs so you may eliminate limiting beliefs and healthily address your needs.