Welcome back. Hey, today’s episode is pretty awesome. I had a great time talking with Rachel Kapp and Steph Pitts.
Rachel and Steph are the cohosts of the Learn Smarter Podcast. It’s called Learn Smarter: The Educational Therapy Podcast. It’s aimed at educating, encouraging, and expanding understanding for parents of students with different learning profiles through growing awareness of educational therapy, individual strategies, community support, coaching, and educational content. They cover a lot of material in their podcast. I will definitely link to that in the show notes. You should definitely check it out. It’s a good one.
I talk with Rachel and Steph today all about the basics of educational therapy: what it is, what the training involves, and how to find a good educational therapist. And then we transition about halfway through to talk about executive functioning as an area of intervention. So they talk all about their approach to executive functioning and teaching executive functioning skills. So, there’s a lot of content in this episode to dive into. I think you’ll enjoy it.
A little more about the two of them.
Steph and Rachel bonded and met in Educational Therapy graduate school. They both took the leap to quit their jobs around the same time and start private educational therapy practices. They decided to start the podcast because they were having these conversations anyway and decided to share all of their knowledge and resources via the podcast. And it’s really taken off. There are almost 80 episodes, and the content, like I said, is fantastic.
Rachel, in particular, grew up in LA, studied abroad in Rome, taught preschool for seven years, and then went to grad school and found educational therapy. It really helps to fulfill her obsession with helping struggling learners thrive. She talks about that on the podcast a bit.
Steph is a lover of board games, which we’ll definitely get into, and a tech guru. She also grew up in LA, also went to graduate school after teaching elementary school, and honed her executive functioning skills early with a family of seven kids. She moved on to educational therapy and again, has a private practice in the LA area.
I’ll link to both of their practices in the show notes, but in the meantime, I invite you to enjoy this wide-ranging conversation with Rachel Kapp and Steph Pitts.
Hey, welcome back to The Testing Psychologist podcast. Thank y’all for tuning in again. I am here with Rachel Kapp and Steph Pitts. Like you heard in the intro, Rachel and Steph have been working together for quite a while, and I’m excited to talk with them.
Ladies, welcome to the podcast.
Rachel: Thank you so much.
Stephanie: Thanks for having us.
Dr. Sharp: Of course. I’m struck just right off by how small the podcasting world is. Y’all reached out and we had a little chat. I immediately found a connection with Melissa Hall and Amber Hawley in the My Biz Bestie thing. It’s always amazing how we are all very closely connected even if we might not know it. Always good to make new connections.
Rachel: It’s a great community to be a part of. We like podcasters.
Stephanie: Yeah, it’s fun.
Dr. Sharp: Sure. I was also saying, this is one of the rare times when my guests have amazing microphones like myself. So our audio should be pretty good this time.
Rachel: You’re welcome, audience.
Dr. Sharp: Right. Thanks a lot for coming. I’m really excited to talk with y’all all about educational therapy and hope to really dive into executive functioning interventions for kids. I think that’s super important.
Just to lead off a little bit. Like I mentioned in past episodes, I’m cutting down the introductions, but I do want to know why this work is important to you and why are you doing this now.
Rachel: Steph, do you want me to go first?
Stephanie: Yeah, I do.
Rachel: This is Rachel speaking. We have found that when there’re two female voices, it’s good to differentiate. So I’m Rachel.
I was attracted to this work because I used to be a preschool teacher and I was very interested in how my little 4.5-year-olds were consuming information and how knowledge was seeping into their brains. Also, I would see a 4.5-year-old, when the traditional things that we were doing in the classroom, which were very visual and auditory and kinesthetic, for these kids wouldn’t work We had to get creative about how to teach them stories or whatever curriculum we were working on in that particular moment.
That’s how I found educational therapy. And I love getting to help learners have access to information that might be difficult for them based off their learning profile.
Dr. Sharp: Nice.
Stephanie: This is Stephanie. I found educational therapy because I was a teacher and then I raised somebody else’s 7 children. I was basically doing Ed therapy for those kids without realizing what it was; helping them access doing their homework, and all the things that were required of them in school.
And so, I went back to school to learn even more, where Rachel and I met. And it’s really about a lot of taking aim and helping them become the [00:06:00] best learners they can be. Just seeing those aha moments with them or their shoulders just relaxed after they leave my office is really rewarding.
Dr. Sharp: What an amazing feeling. I could imagine that being just seeing the light come on, like they get it. It seems really powerful for kids, especially.
Stephanie: It’s almost kind of like a high, honestly.
Dr. Sharp: I bet. So y’all gig is educational therapy, right?
Dr. Sharp: Talk to us a little bit about that term. I don’t know, and I could be wrong, but I don’t know that that term is sanctioned or official in every state in the nation. So I’m really curious. What is educational therapy and is it an independent licensure or what?
Rachel: Good question. We’ll preface this by saying, this is our answer to it. We’re not speaking on behalf of anybody else.
Rachel: Steph, how would you define educational therapy? We define it slightly differently, but it’s the same practice.
Stephanie: I like to say, I teach students to learn how to learn and who they are as learners. And Rachel’s version is
Rachel: My job is to help learners become independent, successful, and autonomous in the classroom and in life.
So educational therapy focuses on skills that need to be remediated. It’s one of the things that makes it different from tutoring in that we’re not that interested in content, but we will use the content to help learners access information through the strategies that we’re trying to teach.
Stephanie: Yeah. The content becomes the vehicle, teaching the strategies and then helping them choose and know which strategies work for them and which ones to implement when and how.
Dr. Sharp: I see.
So is it fair, and this might be an oversimplification, to say that tutors are working primarily with the academic subject material like reading, writing, and math skills, whereas y’all are teaching the more global underlying skills that might allow them to access those academic materials […]
Rachel: That’s correct.
Stephanie: Yes, absolutely.
Rachel: That’s a good way of looking at it.
Stephanie: Yeah, definitely. I wanted to add. Educational therapy in general isn’t known throughout the country as it is in California. One of the reasons is it was born in California, and the other reason is it’s only been around for 40 years. So it’s really relatively new. We have a governing board that is not state specific. It’s Countrywide. So you’ll find educational therapy in some big cities: Dallas, Chicago, New York, and places like that.
Rachel: San Francisco.
Stephanie: Oh yeah, San Francisco. Well, California. Other than that, there are educational therapists around and they’re sprinkled here and there. And as the profession becomes well known, it’s gaining traction, but it’s not something that people know about. So we often have to tell people what it is exactly we do because people have never heard of it.
Rachel: In terms of the licensure question, we can speak for California where we don’t have state licensure, which means, educational therapy is private pay here. I can’t speak to other states just because we live in LA. So that’s what we know. But in terms of the governing board that we have, that’s the board through which we get ordained as certified. So, it’s a self-governed community of educational therapists.
Dr. Sharp: I see. Is there a, what’s the word I’m looking for, a similar professional certification that we might compare it to? Would this be like someone getting certified in EMDR or is it more intensive than that? I’m curious about that.
Rachel: It’s an interesting question because EMDR is under the licensure that somebody would already have, right?
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, I think for the most part only licensed folks can be EMDR Certified.
Rachel: Right. I don’t know if it’s an exact comparison. I’m not even sure of another field that… Steph, what do you think?
Stephanie: I was going to say, On the East Coast, there are a lot of academic coaches and life coaches. You can be certified by the international coaching Federation, but people don’t know that you can be licensed as a life coach or an academic coach.
I want to say it’s more similar to that because anybody could call themselves an ed therapist, honestly. Not that we condone that because we’ve gone through a lot of training, but technically speaking, because there’s no licensure, it’s one of those things where we’ve seen other people in similar fields that have taken on and are doing educational therapy simultaneously. There are therapists that are actually also educational therapists.
Rachel: Speech pathologists as well. And so I think it’s important while we’re talking about not everybody has the same certification and background in education, but that they can call themselves an educational therapist to explain to people how they can find out the background of the educational therapist. If you’re informed going into it, you can know.
One of the really easy ways is to search for educational therapists in your area through our governing board, which is The Association of Educational Therapy, or it might be educational therapists. I’m not sure.
Stephanie: Association of Educational Therapists.
Rachel: So you can Google that. There’s a search function and you can search by zip code, or you can search by name of somebody who’s calling themselves that.
Now, I will say, not everybody who is an educational therapist is a part of the association, but that’s absolutely a conversation that you can have with the individual professional if you are looking for someone and they’re not listed on the website. They might have a reason why. So, it’s up to the individual to do that research.
Dr. Sharp: I got you. So what should someone look for in an educational therapist ideally if they’re trying to find someone? Is there a specific certification or specific training path that might jump out?
Stephanie: We are certified. We did a post-master’s, well, I did a postmaster certificate in educational therapy and there are several schools that do that around the country. And also, there are different levels within the association signifying if you’re a student member, if you’re what’s called an associate level, a professional level, or board certified.
So if there’s somebody who says they’re an educational therapist, or you’re finding them on the Association of Educational Therapists’ website, for instance, you will see where they are in their journey. Otherwise, I would say people who have credentials in special education, or just are rockstar educators like to call them, those are the people that are going to be more in tune with what an educational therapist does rather than doing tutoring and calling it educational therapy so they can just charge more.
Dr. Sharp: I see. That’s a good distinction. I think we have some examples of that in our field as well. People masquerading as one thing or another.
Stephanie: I am sure.
Dr. Sharp: Okay. Good to know. I just wanted to set the stage. So I would imagine folks will go out after the podcast at some point and try to find an educational therapist. So just knowing what we might look for. And like I said, I don’t know of educational therapists here in Colorado. It’s just not a popular certification or modality.
Stephanie: There are some.
Dr. Sharp: I’m sure there are but I wouldn’t even know what to look for. Now for y’all, you said this is a postmaster’s certification. Are there degrees in educational therapy or formal educational tracks with that? Or do most people do the certification?
Rachel: Steph and I took a different path. We had classes that overlapped, which is how we met. Steph already had her master’s when she entered into the certification program. I did not. And I wanted my master’s.
So we took a lot of the same classes, which allowed us to call ourselves educational therapists. And then I went on for a further year to get my master’s. And the whole time I was there, I thought I was getting my master’s in Ed therapy. I come to find out when I got my diploma, I got a master’s in special education with a concentration in educational therapy.
Dr. Sharp: Surprise.
Rachel: Surprise. There are postgraduate programs that you can participate in. We both went to CSUN, which is California State University, Northridge. The great thing about that program, our Ed Therapy program actually started at UCLA and then went to CSUN, but the great thing about how the program was designed, it was actually designed at the same time as the association was setting up their requirements for what classes people needed to have in order to certify as an Ed therapist. So by going through that particular program, it was a very easy transition.
Stephanie: It’s fast-tracked.
Dr. Sharp: I see.
Rachel: But there are other programs. I just don’t know that much about that.
Stephanie: If you’re interested, people can also take the classes and degrees that they have and apply to the Association of Educational Therapists and find out if they’re missing any important classes and then can actually get certified independently.
So it doesn’t have to be through a program, but it was all-encompassing, the program that we did. It was two years’ worth of classes on top of a master’s for me. So there are multiple ways, but the association is trying to set a standard for what background and information you need in order to be a successful Ed therapist.
Dr. Sharp: Fair enough. Thanks for diving into that. I know we’re getting in the weeds a little bit, but the educational stuff is important, and just knowing all the work that y’all have put in to be where you are.
Stephanie: And I am sure your listeners who are doing testing and whatnot, they want to make sure that they’re
Rachel: referring to the right people.
Stephanie: Because that’s your reputation too. I get it.
Dr. Sharp: That’s also important. I’d love to switch gears and really start talking about who benefits from educational therapy and what kind of kids or folks you’re working with. So what does that look like?
Rachel: We have slightly different specialties. I’ll speak for Steph that we aren’t in practice together, but our practices are very similar. We both have teams that work under us as well. We both have group practices.
We at Kapp Educational Therapy Group, which is my practice in Beverly Hills, primarily focus on learners with ADHD and the accompanying executive functioning, writing, math, reading comprehension, and challenges that go along with that diagnosis. Obviously, the comorbid diagnosis also. We specialize in that mainly because that’s my jam and that’s what I really enjoy doing. Other educational therapists will specialize in other things which Steph can talk about.
Steph, who are some of the clients that you are getting referred?
Stephanie: My Ed Therapist is my practice. We see a lot of the same ADHD a lot. But also, I seem to have a lot of really impacted students with processing disorders, with traumatic brain injuries, kids that have had chemo, things like that that are
Rachel: autism spectrum disorder,
Stephanie: A lot of autism. A lot of really impacted kids seem to be my jam.
Dr. Sharp: Where are your referrals coming from primarily?
Stephanie: All over the place. You guys- those who test, schools, people who find us online, work from therapists when they realize, especially when things are happening mostly at school and things aren’t happening as at home.
We deal a lot with the social and emotional aspects of learning and in school. That’s another aspect of how it’s different from tutoring because we’re really talking about, there’s a lot of self-esteem going on, and we’re really working on that because as Rachel said a long time ago, and I’ve just adapted this because I love it so much is, by the time kids come to us, they’ve lost the love of learning. For some of the kids in my practice, the entire goal right now is fostering the love of learning.
Dr. Sharp: I have to jump in and ask how you do that because that was so important. So if you, in like 30 to 45 seconds, could just tell me how you build self-esteem and love of learning. No, I’m joking on the time. I was just talking with a family yesterday with a little guy with ADHD and already very low academic self-esteem, a lot of self-criticism. I think that a big question in a lot of our practices is how you really foster that or rekindle that love of learning and self-esteem.
Rachel: This is a long-term relationship that we have with our clients. Educational therapy is more akin to a marathon than a sprint. And we make that very clear to parents that you may not see an impact of Ed therapy for a while.
There are a lot of ways to get a student back. It is easier if we work with a child before puberty. That’s just a fact. So if we get a kid in elementary school who’s already having these self-esteem issues, it’s easier to win them back. So, there are multiple avenues.
One is remediating information and showing them that they can understand. Another is demystifying their learning profile, explaining to them what it is that’s going on in their brain. We have a lot of conversations that are rather heartbreaking. I have students who have asked me, is ADHD ever going to go away, or is this forever? It’s never going to go away, but I will because you’re going to learn how to be successful without me.
And so, through that conversation, through the normalization of what it is that they’re experiencing, and honestly, we normalize it for parents also. That has to be said because when the parents are calling, they’re talking about their kid who they feel like is a real outlier, but for us, I could tell you what you’re going to tell me because it’s what we do all day, every day.
Steph, you do some amazing stuff through gameplay also.
Stephanie: I love games. So most of the kids… My office looks like Toys R Us. There’s over…
Rachel: A blessing memory.
Stephanie: They’re opening again guys. There are over 200 games in my particular office. I have two offices, and that’s because I get bored of them, but literally, the kids come in and I can get them on board almost 99.9% of the time with a game. And that’s how I start.
Rachel: You always say it’s high reward, but a low investment.
Stephanie: Low investment, high return in games.
Rachel: There you go.
Dr. Sharp: Nice. Do you have go to games? What are your favorite games to get kids?
Stephanie: Yes. I have a lot of favorite games, but the game that I play with every single new client, every single time is Rush Hour. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that game.
Rachel: It’s a great game.
Stephanie: It’s basically a parking lot puzzle. You know those old school puzzles where you had to move the pieces, but they didn’t come out and you had to get them in a picture, and they were in a little square with the nine pieces or whatever? It’s like that, but you have to move these cars and drive one of the cars off the parking lot. And I can get so much information just by watching how they attack that problem. It is wonderful just checking how they do things. It’s my own testing. It’s unofficial and whatnot, but I can learn so much about who they are.
Rachel: I want to add that on our podcast, which is, is okay for me to say this?
Dr. Sharp: Oh yeah, of course.
Rachel: Okay. So on our podcast which is called Learn Smarter: The Educational Therapy Podcast, we have done several episodes where Stephanie breaks down games and how to play them and explains why certain things work and how she adopts them. And then, a lot of them have free views associated with it. So if you’re interested in going and getting a particular list of games that she likes, it’s available on our website as well, which is learnsmarterpodcast.com.
Dr. Sharp: That’s awesome. I love that you have done podcast episodes on games specifically. That’s fantastic.
Stephanie: It is my jam. I love it very much. We often talk a lot about how to level up a game. So the kids that walk in and want to play a game that they loved as a kid, you could adapt it for a kid that’s gone through puberty already, that’s a teenager, and make it something that’s very specific to what they need, but yet they still get to be a little kid and play the game that they loved. So it’s so fun.
Dr. Sharp: I could really say that. Now you’ve got me thinking about games in my office some more.
Rachel: There you go.
Stephanie: It’s a game changer. I love it.
Dr. Sharp: It’s real. It’s a game changer.
Rachel: The games are a game changer.
Stephanie: They really are. I promise.
Dr. Sharp: I believe you.
Rachel: Games actually also really work great with kids who are rigid as well because they’ll learn the rules of the game and then you shift it, and they have to tolerate it. So, you start to build that kind of resiliency as well through the game.
Dr. Sharp: I love that. And that might be a nice segue to really dive into some executive functioning stuff- speaking of rigidity and flexibility and whatnot.
So y’all both, it sounds like, work a lot with executive functioning. I know this is a big topic but I’d love to try to dig into that a little bit and learn how you might work with some of the most common executive functioning concerns that we see. So, the sustained attention, the rigidity, the poor planning, and organization. You can take it wherever you’d like to.
Stephanie: Well, we both start in the same place with every single student that comes into our practices- and that is managing your time and your things. First and foremost, we like to have them make a Google calendar if possible or have a planner. We always start there because that helps with a lot of the rigidity that usually is based upon anxiety and not understanding and not knowing what’s going on.
And the more that we can give them control over those things and be able to have systems in place that make sense to them and are easy, the more they’re likely to keep it up.
Rachel: So, we talk a lot. And when I say a lot, I mean, this is a major conversation that we’re having on our podcast. Our second episode was titled how to calendar and we break and we go into why we start there.
The analogy that I like to use with managing your time and managing your things is that parents are just concerned with the destination. They want their kid to know the assignment and they want the assignment turned in. Well, there’s all this prep work that you have to do in order to meet that goal.
I always say you can’t drive a car to a destination without knowing where you’re going. And a lot of our students don’t know what they’ve… It’s very common for learners to come in, they’re missing assignments or they’ve done the assignment, but they never put it in the hands of the teacher or they don’t know where it is, but they know that they did, and it’s very common for kids to come in with a lot of anxiety.
We know from our experience that organizing their time, and yes, our preferred method is absolutely a digital calendar. It’s not always possible. But managing their time and then helping them learn how to manage their things, which by the way, oftentimes it can be very complicated. They’ll come in with these hugely complicated systems, and we scale everything back and we make everything so much simpler for them because we don’t want them to having to make decisions about where things should go. So, it reduces anxiety. That’s a huge impact that happens right away through educational therapy.
I will also say the unintended consequence of us helping our learners organize their time is suddenly the family structure is forced to change because parents now have to be responsible for organizing their time when their kid is doing it.
So we’ll often say that learners in our practices will have the best executive functioning in their household and they will be teaching their siblings and their parents how to do things, which we’ve seen time and time again. We’ve had sessions with parents who see what is going on with their kid and then they ask to come in as well to have us help them organize so that they can also reduce that anxiety and stress.
Stephanie: Yeah, because as we always say, the apple never falls far. They want to learn too. I’ve had many sessions or kids that come in and they’ve taught their older siblings how to do it and they’re so excited. And that’s step 1 in having a victory and having success. How cool is that when you get to teach your older sibling how to have a calendar?
Dr. Sharp: That’s a big moment when a younger sibling can do anything better than an older sibling.
Rachel: Especially for our kids, it’s one of the things that I ask when I’m speaking to parents calling is where are they in the birth order? Because if you have a kid who’s 2nd or 3rd, and they have older siblings who are very high functioning and it looks to be very easy for them to be successful, it’s a huge win when they can do something”better” than that sibling that they had been admiring so much.
Dr. Sharp: I bet. Yeah, that’s huge. I’m thinking of our own kids. That would be really helpful for our younger one.
So you start with the calendar. I know we could spend the whole episode or two on calendars. You’ve done it.
Rachel: Oh, we have.
Stephanie: Oh yeah.
Dr. Sharp: Yes. I’m very curious. You said that you simplify. You use Google calendar. Are there main principles that you try to teach kids when you’re building that calendar for them for the first time?
Rachel: Everything in one. And this is something you’ll hear us drill time and time again. It’s the same thing for how they organize their things. There really should only be one option where something can be. You should be able to produce whatever is asked of you on demand even if you’re not in that class.
Meaning, when they come here, sometimes our clients will come in with their own agenda, but it doesn’t match up with our agenda, and we’re asking for something they weren’t expecting. They should be able to produce that for us.
When it comes to the calendar, it’s not just the school calendar. Let’s talk about middle schoolers, for example. They’re transitioning classes. They have sports. They have sometimes religious activities. They have music. They have doctor’s appointments if they’re medicated or a human being. They have family birthdays that they’re responsible to be at. There are family events that they need to go to. And all of that information, just like an adult, needs to be compiled in one location.
It’s why we don’t like school portals because it teaches our learners learned helplessness. They don’t think they need to create a system. We just did an episode on the four reasons students don’t want a calendar and reason number one was I have it in my portal. Well, no, you don’t. The portal is a backup.
The schools don’t use it in a consistent way. Some teachers could be on School of G and some teachers could be on Google Classroom. Well, that’s an EF nightmare, but if you have your own system for how you’re doing things and you’re using those as backups, you’re going to be fine.
So all the things need to be in one place when it comes to your time. And that really matters when you’re creating a study plan because if you have sports on Wednesday from 5 to 8, we’re not going to plan for you to study that day. It’s not reasonable. And we need to have all that information in front of us to get to the study plan. The same for bindery.
Stephanie: We use one for everything. Honestly, we show our clients our systems. So they can see our calendar. I show mine all the time.
Rachel: They all see it.
Stephanie: We love color-coordinating things. I talk about things that I know that I need to pay attention to what colors and what colors I don’t and things like that so that they can… I’m very visual. So for me to be able to see an end product and then know what it needs to look like is something that I often use with my clients, because that’s how I work.
Kids come in with so many different ways that they’re doing things. They’ll spend two hours highlighting different colors of things and it is such a waste of their time. The biggest thing about executive functioning is teaching them what’s important and what’s not right. So that’s working memory. That’s all the planning, prioritizing, and organizing all of those things. But having them understand where to start, how to start, and what is really being asked of them are all the things that we incorporate once we have the initial calendar and binder and everything set up in their backpack.
Sometimes we do backpack maps. Where does everything need to live? Things like that. Sometimes I’ve done it with their rooms, with their desks, things like that.
Rachel: The important thing to know about a calendar when you’re creating it is it’s a lot of upfront work. You’re inputting a lot of information. When you have that conversation and you say, do you see how much you have going on? Look how long this is taking us to map out your life. It also explains to them, oh, I really don’t want to be holding onto all this information in my brain.
I always tell students that their brain only has so much, this is for Steph too. Your brain only has so much capacity to hold onto information. So let’s hold onto the information that you’re going to be tested on, not where you have to be tomorrow.
One of my favorite things to say to a student is to ask me what I have to do tomorrow. And they’ll go, Rachel, what do you have to do tomorrow? I have no idea, but I will be at everything on time prepared, and ready to go because my calendar tells me to. And then their favorite thing is when I have a calendar and fail, which happens to all of us, right? We put something in on the wrong date and it’s just human. They love hearing about that because it allows them to make mistakes too.
Stephanie: And that’s that’s for the rigid kids for sure, too.
Stephanie: I wanted to add the analogy that I always use is most kids have an iPhone or a smartphone, and I say, what happens when you have all the apps running at the same time? And I’ll get a couple of answers, either one, it slows down, or two, the battery dies. That’s my analogy. That’s what your brain is doing while you’re sitting there thinking about how you need to turn this in or how you need to get something for lunch, or you need to go somewhere, or remember to ask your mom, can you go over to your friend’s house? Those are things that you shouldn’t be holding on to in your brain because it’s going to slow you down.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. It makes me think. I think it’s David Allen from Getting Things Done, who says that brains are meant to have ideas, not hold them.
Rachel: I love that.
Dr. Sharp: It really stuck with me.
Rachel: Steph, we’re stealing that.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. Take that one. But it makes so much sense, right? These things that we can offload to technology, there’s no reason not to. And we can do that.
Dr. Sharp: I have two logistical questions. One is, when do you, well, let me back up. The first one is why Google calendar versus other calendars? Is there a reason for that?
Rachel: There’s a reason for everything we do, Jeremy. So just ask.
Stephanie: I thought there might be.
Stephanie: There’s always a method to the madness. Google calendar.
There are a lot of reasons. And Rachel probably come up with more than I can think of off the top of my head, but number one, you can automate things and have things be reoccurring. You can change colors. You can get it across any platform.
Kids always have their phones with them, so you can access it there. Let’s say you lose your phone or you don’t know what you have to do, you can walk into any electronic store and pull up your calendar if you need to. So it doesn’t go anywhere. It’s always available. So you’re not going to lose it. It streamlines things. You can invite other people to things. You can share calendars across family members and have control over what your kids can see and what they can change and what they can’t. So there’s a lot of control that you can have over a Google calendar.
Rachel: I’ll add two more things. Also saying we just did another episode called how to calendar like a pro because the calendar conversation gets a lot of traction in our Facebook group as well. So we decided to do another episode, but I wanted to reiterate, it does not matter if you have your iPhone, if you have your computer. If you put everything into the Apple native app, let’s say, then you need a Mac or an Apple computer to be able to access it.
The other thing I’ll add is that a lot of schools… One of the things I didn’t mention that you put into your calendar is this school year-wide calendar. When do you have days off? When do you have minimum days? When do you have breaks? Kids love putting breaks into their calendars, which by the way I do too.
A lot of schools, at least the schools that I’m working with, have a Google calendar that you can import onto yours from their school website. So it can reduce some of that effort that needs to go in. To us, the functionality is just better than something else. It’s not always feasible and it can get really complicated if students are on a rotating A-G schedule, which I hate because you can’t automate it, but there are workarounds for everything. And if it’s possible to make it digital, we will much to the chagrin of a lot of parents who don’t understand why we go down that path, but we’re working with a generation that they’re native users.
Dr. Sharp: That totally makes sense. It sounds like y’all have done a lot of content on calendaring, so I’ll make sure to link to all of that and not spend a ton of time on that here. I did want to ask though, how early is too early to start a kid on calendaring?
Dr. Sharp: So they just have to. Okay, I’m thinking through this. I have an 8-year-old. He does not have a phone and will not have a phone for who knows how long. How do you do that?
Stephanie: He can have a paper planner.
Rachel: Lots of schools have paper planners. Here’s something that you should just be aware of, especially as they transition into middle school and get older, they should know when they have sports and they should know when they have practice, and they should know when they have a doctor’s appointment or something that they’re expected to do.
Get the week on a glance calendar so they can see their whole week. We teach elementary-age kids to write their, this is just a very specific thing for us, we teach elementary-age kids to write their assignments on the day that they’re due. This becomes a huge problem in middle school because things are not assigned one day and due the next.
The analogy we use for that is you go to the dentist twice a year, when do you put that appointment on your calendar? You put it on the date you have to go because there’s no way you’re going to remember, right? It’s the same for assignments. The earlier you can teach kids to write down what they need to accomplish, the easier you’ll have it in the transition as they mature and evolve.
Dr. Sharp: I like that. I’m thinking of so many things. This is personally relevant now. Thank you so much for that.
Stephanie: That feels good.
Rachel: Yeah, that’s good.
Dr. Sharp: So where’s that go from there? So you do the calendaring first and then what comes after that?
Rachel: Depends on the kid.
Stephanie: Yeah, it really does depend on the kid. It depends on the age of the kid, what’s going on, where their struggle is. Sometimes it’s literally a goal. Like I said, sometimes the goal is just loving learning again before we can even remediate anything because how many times have they had worksheets put in front of them and they just turn off? So there’s that. It could be anything from reading or math or writing to just rigidity.
Rachel: Start showing signs of flexibility. That’s a big overarching goal as well.
Stephanie: Yes, self-advocacy. Their goal might be to ask us one thing in session that they wouldn’t normally ask for help for. It really honestly depends. And that’s why every student is very individualized.
Dr. Sharp: I hear you. Could I throw two real case examples at you?
Stephanie: Totally. Do it.
Rachel: Do it. That will be so much fun.
Dr. Sharp: Let me just see where we go. Well, I won’t get super specific, but a lot of the time I hear problems with getting homework done. The kid can’t sit down to get his homework done. So let’s just say he’s 10, in the 5th grade, it’s across the board, it’s not just a specific subject, but he has a lot of trouble sitting down to get his homework done. He’ll protest, he’ll move around, he’ll go throw something away, get a drink, go to the bathroom, and they have a hard time. It takes 30 minutes to even sit down to do homework that would take 5 minutes to finish.
Rachel: That’s the task initiation. We don’t want to call these students procrastinators because of the negative connotation. And also we don’t call students lazy ever because we come from a fundamental belief that all students and learners want to please. So the real question is why?
Stephanie: Yeah, why? Well, let’s get down to why. There’s usually one thing that is the trouble there. Is it writing? Is it something having to do with reading? Where are the feelings coming from that are delaying the task initiation?
Rachel: We believe the emotional impacts the ability. It has nothing to do with the fact that it’s a 5-minute assignment. If you’re looking at the larger lifespan of your child, you don’t really care about that homework assignment, but you do care that they’re able to start and complete non-preferred tasks.
That is a very common one. I think it’s more common for it to be in one content area than overarching. Our kids absolutely have preferred content areas. I have a high schooler who will avoid history and English by doing her math homework. So we work on that. Go ahead, Steph.
Stephanie: I was going to say, our goals aren’t going to be today they won’t sit down and do any homework and tomorrow they have everything done. They’ve done it and turned it in. So the goals are baby steps. So it might be, let’s decide how long of a break you’re going to get after school and let’s sit down and do one or two things, one or two problems, even it could be. And that is a win for right now.
Rachel: And we have to help coach parents through that. What I’ll also say is we have the blessing of not being the parent. I don’t even know. There’s so much going on between the parent and their child especially if the parent identifies with what the kid is going through. We hear a lot from families where were Ed therapists when they were in school, because the kind of support that we’re offering to their kids, they wish they had had.
We have the blessing of like I can sleep at night. I’m not emotionally… I’m attached to your kid, but I didn’t create them. So outsourcing that part of the relationship can be really helpful if possible.
Stephanie: And we work a lot with the schools and the teachers about creating goals and expectations. And so if the expectation is literally we can get the teachers on board, the expectation is literally to do one thing and that’s enough, and we’ll build up the muscle. You have to start somewhere. You don’t get a six-pack by going to the gym once.
Rachel: That’s an important part of what we do is that we do partner with the school. So another example of how we help accommodate a learner, for example, is when they get that full sheet of math, they don’t need to do it. You don’t need them to do all 30 problems. The demand is too high for this particular kid. What you need them to do is understand the concept. Well, if they do every other problem and they’re still demonstrating an understanding of the concept, that should be enough.
Dr. Sharp: I totally agree. It’s nice to hear that validated. I’m so glad to hear y’all say that you really dig into the emotional component because I’m a big fan of that idea that the emotional pieces get in the way just as much if not more than the cognitive pieces.
Dr. Sharp: So how about kids that maybe just have a hard time sitting? Let’s say they’re fidgety in class, they’re talking to friends, they’re not paying attention, they’re just zoned out. I hear that a lot. Like, I wasn’t paying attention. I lost track and all of a sudden class was over and we were leaving and I just forgot to write my homework down and that kind of thing.
Stephanie: We do two things. One is using the Pomodoro technique, which is getting students and learners to really know how long they can actually focus on a preferred task and a non-preferred task.
One of the great things that we both do is use baking timers. One of the things also, especially with executive functioning, is knowing how long things take you. So we teach that as well because you need to know how long it’s going to take you to get ready in the morning, how long it takes you to drive to school or work or whatever.
So another part is helping them understand how long this is actually going to take them. And sometimes, they think it’s going to take them 40 minutes and it takes them 5 minutes. So really teaching them what that actually looks like. And then let’s focus on how long we can actually focus. And that might be the entirety of the assignment is just focusing for that amount of time.
Rachel: I wanted to add two ideas for the in-school part of this. Obviously, we work with teachers’ preferred feeding and all of that thing. We can do two things.
First, you want the kid to be able to identify that they missed something. So if they can self-regulate enough to know that they missed something and then have that conversation with the teacher, usually a teacher sees it happening and appreciates that the student is coming to them and that they don’t have to go to the student.
I was going to say something else and it was… The other thing that can be incredibly helpful, it’s not always feasible if a learner is behind but if we’re in a position with our clients, is the non-preferred. I do a lot of math. So let’s say math is the non-preferred activity. And that’s when they really act out. Math is at the end of the day in their classroom and they’re just done. And also they don’t like it. If I’m able to prime them and pre-teach the material, well, they’re on board in class because they already know it.
Stephanie: It’s so much easier.
Rachel: They’re excited that they already know it and they like to share the Rachel’s strategy. This is how Rachel taught me to do it. And they’re more open to hearing the strategy of how the teacher wants it done as well.
So if you can prime a learner in advance for the classes, this works really well as well for kids who don’t love reading, we encourage all the kids who don’t love reading to get the books done rather quickly and get that non-preferred task over with. And we can talk all day about how we do that because there’s a lot of reading strategy stuff that we do as well. Those are two specific things that require partnership with the classroom teacher, for sure.
Dr. Sharp: Right. Could we dive into maybe the subject-specific stuff just for a bit here before we run out of time?
Dr. Sharp: I do hear a lot of, I just don’t know what to write or they just won’t sit down to read for 20 minutes like the teacher wants them to. I call the writing.
Rachel: This is one that I’m sure you hear all the time. They can say so much on the topic, but when they sit down to write, it’s three sentences.
Dr. Sharp: Definitely.
Rachel: Okay. Steph, go ahead.
Stephanie: One of the biggest things is using technology. If they can sit there, talk about, and answer the question orally to you, then they should be able to either speech to text or type it if that is easier, or sometimes with my learners, I literally have them say it to me and I type exactly what they’re saying, word for word, and start there.
We always sit there and say, pick one thing and start there because you’re not going to be able to change something overnight. And so for the kids that don’t want to write, it’s also the blank page anxiety, right? So we sit there and tell kids to do a brain dump. What are all the things that you can think about about this topic? Or a running dialogue. You can sit there and write the things that you’re thinking about at this assignment and I’m going to say you need to just journal for two minutes.
You can say the entire time, I hate that Stephanie’s making me do this, but something will come out eventually. And so, helping them or even telling them it doesn’t matter where you start or what you say because that’s not going to be the end product anyway. Go ahead.
Rachel: Writing is the ultimate executive functioning challenge. We tell people and we tell learners, you need to attend to the prompt. You need to hold onto the information that you’re being asked about. You need to hold onto the mechanics of writing. You need to hold onto the grammar that you need to do. Spelling should be accurate. Oh, by the way, do that all simultaneously.
Stephanie: And organize your thoughts in order.
Rachel: Go ahead and start with the thesis. How do you know the thesis? That’s a real pet peeve of ours. How do you know the thesis before you’ve written anything? You don’t know how you feel about something. And we give our learners permission, the intro and conclusion of something really should be done last, when you know what you’ve said.
We’ve done a lot of episodes about writing and strategies that we use for writing on the podcast as well because it is such a huge area of need. And it’s also highly individualized to what’s going on with the particular learner, because obviously, it’s going to be different if it’s an intentional issue or if they didn’t understand the material, to begin with, and they struggle with reading comprehension. They can decode beautifully, but they struggle with understanding what has been read. Well, you’re going to have a hard time writing about that.
Stephanie: Yeah. Or they don’t understand the prompt.
Rachel: We do work on how you turn… Oftentimes, especially the high school students, they’ll get a prompt, there’s not a single question in the prompt. It’s very difficult to answer something without a question. So we teach them how to turn that prompt into a question that is answerable.
Dr. Sharp: I love that. I find that a lot of the kids I work with who are more rigid and concrete really struggle with writing because if it’s an open-ended prompt or even an open-ended question, it’s like, how do I narrow that down? How do I answer that? What do they actually want?
Rachel: It’s hard because there isn’t a correct answer necessarily. And that’s really hard for those concrete thinkers. You can go wherever you want, but what’s the answer? Well, there isn’t one.
Stephanie: So that’s why, especially when we can get them younger and we can start practicing that, it really benefits them when they get older and they’re able to use those skills when they get the prompts that don’t have a correct answer or one single answer anyway.
Dr. Sharp: That makes sense. I know that we’ve done a whirlwind tour of educational therapy and executive functioning intervention. Is there any hot topic that y’all definitely want to throw out there in terms of tools for executive functioning that you just got to mention because they’re so good?
Rachel: It’s interesting because as Steph and I have done this podcast project together, there’s been different ebbs and flows of it and different things that we’re talking about at different moments. So I don’t know if there’s an EF thing that we’re really talking about loving right now, but Steph and I have been spending a lot of time thinking and talking about rigidity and learners and how to help move them, at least to that first victory.
And so one of the things that we talk about, and this is true of any goal, we have to give this visual to parents because going back to the earlier example, we want them to do their homework and turn it in. Well, you’re at the bottom of the staircase, and you’re talking about the landing and I’m just talking about getting on that first step. And getting on that first step with rigid learners can take a long time, but it’s this it’s the same with, going to the next step isn’t going to take as long.
Jeremy when you started the podcast, I don’t know how long it took you to launch. But when we started our podcast, we prepped the first episode for nine months because we had no podcasting experience. So it took us nine months to figure out how to do it and now we produced like two episodes a week sometimes and it’s big deal. That’s the whole point is that getting to that first podcast release was so hard and now we don’t think anything of it when we post an episode.
Dr. Sharp: That’s such a good analogy. Suffice it to say, it was months on that side as well, months and months. And it really makes me think of just skills and how we take a lot of skills for granted as adults and don’t remember. Well, even for neurotypical kids, it takes time to learn skills when you’re doing something for the first time. But when you find a kid who is not neurotypical in whatever way or ways, then it’s an added layer that makes it even more complex for teaching new skills. And that takes a long time. It took me months before I felt comfortable with my podcast and got the flow.
Rachel: Oh yeah. And let’s be honest, you weren’t 100% comfortable with that first episode, but you said you’re gonna do it anyway, right?
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. I had to just push it out.
Rachel: At a certain point. Once you figure out the tech of how to actually push it out.
Dr. Sharp: I want to ask two things. When you say rigidity and learning, can you just give two examples so listeners might know in their practices what that looks like? I’m just curious what you see with that.
Rachel: Let me give you an example of a current client. I’m sure Steph knows who I am going to talk about. His entire reason for being here is because he’s so rigid about his studied strategies while they’re not working. How many times do you want to continue doing the same thing while it’s not working?
Let me give a little background on the profile. He’s twice exceptional. So he is ADHD and he’s highly gifted. When you have a highly gifted learner, they will encounter struggle once the material levels up because they’ve never had to study before. When they’ve entirely relied on their memory, and now you’re not really asked about remembering facts, states, and topics, you’re asked about interpretation, they have no mechanism for how to study.
So this particular student of mine has been here with me for about a year. And if he takes 10% of what I suggest, that’s a win, which drives his parents crazy because it’s costly to do this, but it’s about those small wins.
For example, we’ll talk about this is how you’re going to approach this particular thing, and this is what I want to see the next time you come back. I want you to show me physically. He’ll come back and he will have amended it. Basically, he reverses back to what his comfort zone is. So, that’s one example.
Stephanie: And I was going to add that, it looks like the kids that say, well, that’s not how my teacher does it, those are the kids that are afraid to waste paper, for instance, because they think that they have to get all their math problems in one side of the paper and that’s it. And it looks like you can’t even tell what’s happening.
Rachel: Oh Jeremy, I could show you pictures of this, but I’m sure you’ve seen it.
Stephanie: Those are the kids that when we play a game and I try to level it up, they’re the ones going, but those aren’t the rules. The kids that feel like a story when you ask them for a prediction or to change the ending or something, they are very distraught about something or don’t have the flexibility between tasks. They can’t go back and forth between things.
There are so many ways it shows depending on the age and the profile. And so teaching flexibility is, as you guys know, very important. You can teach it without them realizing sometimes what’s going on, and then once you hit that, we talk about, look what used to be really hard and look where you are now.
Rachel: I’ll I want to add two more thoughts. The first is, when we have a learner who’s rigid, we work a lot with the parents because sometimes they’re not rewarding moments of small flexibility because they want to see moments of huge flexibility. And so, we talk to them about you got to honor. This little thing that happened is actually a really big deal.
The second thing I want to add is how important rapport is between the learner and us. They are coming in here. They’re very vulnerable. They’re very exposed. We have to get vulnerable with them and be in that place with them so that it’s safe for them. And it can take a while, but that’s why when you are going out and looking for an educational therapist, you want to hire someone who you think will connect with your kid.
Dr. Sharp: Of course. I love that. As we start to close here, I would love to get your thoughts, this is coming out of your field a little bit, so you can think about it if you need to.
From our side, I’m sure you’ve interacted with a lot of psychologists. You’ve seen a lot of evaluation reports. Anything from y’all’s side that would be helpful for us to know in terms of reports, results, recommendations, or things that we can do to make the transition smoother.
This is a question that I ask any of my guests that might be on the other side of the report because this is an ongoing discussion for us; how to make things more accessible. I’m curious if y’all have seen anything that we might add to that.
Rachel: I can speak to how I use the report, which is, I read the beginning part and I read the recommendations and conclusion first, which by the way was how I read stuff in college too. Like when you got those long research and they went through the methods and everything, tell me where we’re going so I can see you build the story of it.
I think it’s really helpful, and this is just a pet peeve, a lot of the people who I find do assessments are very clinical. When giving the feedback to parents and when giving the feedback to the learner, understanding that parents have no experience with these tests. A lot of the words that we used and that we’ve used on this podcast are jargon.
They don’t know what we’re talking about when we say task initiation necessarily. So explaining terms, giving parents processing time, and inevitably parents have more questions about it once they’ve had time to process it as well. So going into that feedback, knowing that they know literally nothing about what you’re about to talk to them about and treat them that way, I think is super helpful.
Stephanie: I’ve got two things to add. The first one is, parents tend to do whatever they see first on the list. And when you put educational therapy last, I think that’s detrimental for a lot of kids, not every kid because that’s not going to be the correct referral, but for a lot of kids, that should be the place that they should start.
Rachel: Sorry, Steph. Especially if the parent has expressed to you that they’re reluctant to do medication, give the recommendation but put that as number two so at least they have an act. We get that a lot. Will you work with my kid if they’re not medicated? The answer is yes. But once we get to a certain point, we’re going to come and tell you very likely you should do this now.
So, knowing your audience a little bit and tailoring it for that particular family, what they’re likely to do. It’s got to be frustrating for you guys, you do these amazing reports, but sometimes parents do nothing with it.
Stephanie: Or I get a report that was done years ago and they just haven’t done anything.
Rachel: That said what was
Stephanie: There’s that. I think the other thing is, if you guys have parents that are very anxious about their children and start going down the rabbit hole of, well, is my kid going to be able to graduate? Is my kid going to go to college? Is my kid going to…
Rachel: And they’re in 4th grade.
Stephanie: Yeah, and they’re in 4th grade. It is really talking to them about the long term play of how their kids can get there, but it’s not going to happen tomorrow. Your reports are very clinical, but I think putting something in there that helps them know that this diagnosis or these things are not going to be… They’re mourning the loss of what they thought their child was like, and so I think putting it in there and them getting support themselves for that I think is really important. And I don’t think that a lot of people…
There have been people in my practice where I’ve said, if you would like to continue, I would like you to go see somebody to help you with your anxiety and things going on around your child too.
Rachel: We don’t like it when the learner becomes the identified problem in the family.
Dr. Sharp: Of course not.
Rachel: Steph and I have both said this. There’s been a family that I wouldn’t start working with until the parents had been in therapy together and I knew them for a long time prior and I had spoken to the therapist because we can’t make it all about, especially when there’s tremendous conflict, it’s not one-sided. So we can work with the learner, but they need to be making changes as well sometimes.
Dr. Sharp: That’s such a good point. And that’s just another layer to the work that all of us do when we work with kids is that it’s not just the kids, it’s the family.
Rachel: It’s never just the kid and it’s always interesting. Isn’t it interesting when the parent either knows that they’re very similar or has no idea? One or the other.
Sometimes if I’m feeling comfortable and confident on the intake call with the family, I say, who does the kid take after? It’s always interesting when it’s the parent who blames the other parent. This is totally my husband. I get that a lot. What does your husband do now? Well, he’s doing this and this and this, and we’re highly a successful family. And I’m like, oh, see, everything turned out fine.
Dr. Sharp: That’s true. That’s a good point. Well, this has been great. I really appreciate it. Our time has flown and I feel like we jampacked it with all sorts of good information.
I would love to have you talk about how people can get in touch with you. You’ve mentioned your podcast, which I’ll definitely link to in the show notes. That sounds like a fantastic resource. But if people want to reach out and hear more about you or even, I don’t know, do you work across state lines? Can you Skype?
Rachel: Yeah, we do.
Stephanie: We do.
Dr. Sharp: Okay. That’s fantastic. How should people get in touch with you if they want to do that?
Rachel: So, if you’re interested in working with us, it’s the same process for Steph and me. You’re going to go to our website. So my website is www.kappedtherapy.com Steph’s is myedtherapist.com. On both of our websites, there is a link to sign up for a phone call with us. We’ll direct you in the right direction at that point.
Stephanie: And the other thing you can do is you can find both of our practices from the podcast website, which is learnsmarterpodcast.com. Or you can email us from the podcast, which is firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. And we see all the things.
Rachel: DM us on Instagram. We see that also.
Stephanie: All the things.
Dr. Sharp: Fantastic. Well, I’ll have all that stuff in the show notes. I’m imagining at least some person or two will reach out to you cause it’s been super helpful.
Stephanie: Yeah. And we love to talk to professionals too. So if anybody wants to have a virtual zoom coffee or anything like that, we love to do that because the more that we all teach each other the better.
Rachel: I do want to also just add, go to our Instagrams. I’m posting less on it now, but we both have posts on there of what educational therapy and practice looks like. We’re showing the strategy and explaining why you see the visual component of it. So if you’re visual, that’s a nice resource for you also.
Dr. Sharp: Very cool. Well, thank you both. This has been great.
Stephanie: Thank you. Thanks for having us.
Dr. Sharp: Of course.
Rachel: It’s been fun.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. Maybe I’ll see you next time I’m in California.
Rachel: There you go.
Stephanie: Love it.
Dr. Sharp: Hey y’all, thanks again for tuning into my episode with Rachel Kapp and Steph Pitts. They shared a ton of great information. I hope you learned a lot. And like I said, check out their podcast. They really were quite humble in describing their podcast, but if you look through the episode list, they’ve done a series on executive functioning, reading, writing, and math. They have a ton of good info in this podcast. Again, that’s the Learn Smarter Podcast.
If you have not subscribed to this podcast yet, I would love to have that privilege. Is that the right word? I would love to have that honor of a subscription to the podcast. That just makes sure that you get the episodes downloaded right when they come out and you don’t miss any future episodes. It’s pretty easy to subscribe. Just do that on iTunes or Spotify or wherever you are listening to this and make sure you don’t miss any future episodes. There are some good ones coming up. So stay tuned and take care in the meantime. Bye. Bye.