Episode 12: How Executive Functions, Dyslexia and ADHD Relate The Personal Brain Trainer Podcast

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How Executive Functions, Dyslexia and ADHD Relate

The Personal Brain Trainer Podcast Episode 12




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Full Transcript for Episode 12

Welcome to the Personal Brain Trainer Podcast.

I'm Dr. Erica Warren and I'm Darius Namdaran and we're your hosts.  Join us on an adventure to translate the scientific jargon and brain research into simple metaphors and stories for everyday life.  We explore executive functions and learning strategies that help turbocharge the mind. Come learn how to steer around the invisible barriers so that you can achieve your goals.  This podcast is ideal for parents, educators, and learners of all ages.

This podcast is brought to you by Bullet Map Academy. We have free dyslexia screener app called dyslexia quiz.  It's a fun, engaging and interactive app.  Try it now.  Just search for dyslexia quiz on the app store and see how your score differs from your friends and family.

This podcast is brought to you by www.goodsensorylearning.com where you can find educational and occupational therapy lessons and remedial materials that bring delight to learning.

Finally, you can find Dr Warren's many courses at www.learningspecialistcourses.com .  Come check out our newest course on developing executive functions and study strategies.

So, what's the topic for this week, Erica?

Our topic is a topic that you came up with that I really love.

And it's how executive functions dyslexia and ADHD relate.

I work primarily within the realm of dyslexia, but so much of my work is nothing to do with reading.

But is everything to do with executive function organizing your ideas and writing your ideas out?

You have a much wider view of things.

You're an assessor yourself and a specialist, so I just thought it would be really interesting to see what's the dynamic between executive function, dyslexia, and ADHD

Especially in light of those three areas that we're talking about working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility.

I have a little bit of a theory.

You want to hear it?

I do, and just to give the audience a little bit of background.

We've talked in prior episodes about how executive functions is broken down into three key areas.

One is working memory, which is in a nutshell, pulling in information, manipulating it, storing it, and retrieving it inhibitory control, which is being able to inhibit or block distractions and then cognitive flexibility, which is your ability to kind of shift from one task to the next.

That's a very, very simple description of each of them.

But I just wanted to give everybody that little bit of the background knowledge that when we're talking about executive functions, were often in our discussions going between those three key areas.

You can bring in a certain activity into your life or classroom, and it seems to help everyone, but not always for the same reasons.

So, for example, it's a very basic example in the classroom.

You could put up a schedule of all the things you're going to do that day, times some pictures, some words of what's going to happen that day now the dyslexic child who is a little bit disorganized, for example.

But look at that list and go, oh, gosh, I know what's coming up next.

That's great.

The autistic child might look at that list and feel a great sense of relief to not because they don't know what's coming up because they do know what's coming up.

They just want to know that the teacher knows what's coming up, and they're going to stick to it, you know, and I'm not saying that's an absolute or the autistic child might be.

I absolutely have to know exactly what's coming up.

And when they see it, they're relieved.

And so, my point here I'm making is executive function.

Challenges seem to overlap.

Dyslexia often overlap.

ADHD and Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, other people with processing differences?

What I'm wondering is, what is the dynamic of the overlap?

Where is the overlap?

Why is the overlap?

And I just wanted to sort of pick your brain on that and sort of discuss it backwards and forwards.

I don't have an absolute answer to this, but here's my working theory at the moment.

Okay, I'm not an educational psychologist like you are.

I am a businessman.

I'm a very practical guy.

That's where I come from.

My theory is this.

You got these three aspects of executive function working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility.

With dyslexia.

It's a processing difference, but it's often also has working memory difficulties and limits.

Okay, not always, but often.

And so, if you're identifying a child with dyslexia because they've got phonological processing difficulties and working memory difficulties, it stands to reason that one of the three legs of the executive functioning stool is a bit shorter, a weaker.

It makes your executive function a bit wobbly.

And then the other thing is, well, what about ADD?

Well, a person with ADHD might have excellent working memory, but very difficult inhibitory control.

And so, they've got executive functioning difficulties, but not for the same reasons.

But they might have the same end result, which is?

They find it hard to stay organized or to organize an essay or to organize their day or a project, but for a different aspect of executive function in those three areas.

And so, there's an overlap.

But it's not like they're overlapping over a difficulty in working memory, their overlapping in a difficulty in a wider umbrella of executive functioning skills.

I have really come to realize that executive functioning training is profoundly helpful for just about everybody, and that we, you know, unfortunately, don't do enough of this.

And I just released a course on teaching executive functioning skills and study skills, and I've really concluded that kids can't manage their own cognition.

They can't be their own conductor of cognitive skills unless they understand this and a lot of people are thinking, wow, this is so complicated.

I don't even understand it.

But let me tell you, learning to read is far more complex than learning executive functioning skills.

It's actually not that complex.

And I think it's not a bad idea, because if you think about it, you can't really learn how to do something until you know what it is, right.

I need to clarify something here.

You know, when you make a statement like they have to understand executive function or need to learn executive function, and do they need to learn the terms working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility?

What do you mean by learning executive function?

I think understanding what it is.

I mean, technically, we don't have to use those terms.

Even when you're talking about reading remediation, they learn a lot of complex words like cell abdication, the different types of syllable divisions and even consonants.

They're all these kinds of abstract concepts that they have to hold onto.

You can teach them these terms.

Why not, but helping them to learn them through metaphors, like one of the things that I did in my course is I created images like doodle notes, and it enables them to see the images.

And as they're learning about it, they can color them in and then take notes about what it is.

But I think, yeah, I why not let kids understand what working memory is and what inhibitory control and what cognitive flexibility is and that really that executive functioning is the conductor of the cognitive skills.

And don't they want to conduct their own cognitive skills?

Because the problem is, is what happens is these kids aren't conducting their own cognitive skills there in the back seat, and other people are telling them what to do when other people don't really understand their cognition that well, so they're not getting the right accommodations.

But if kids really start to understand their brain, then they can also communicate to other people what they need.

Okay, Yeah, I get where you're coming from, and I agree to a degree.

Okay, I find the words working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility really quite hard words myself personally to remember and relate to their quite abstract.

And I realized that sometimes it is important to have accurate words, and it's worthwhile taking the time to learn those.

And I definitely need to learn them as an adult, that's for sure.

Personally speaking, my working memory is three units.

I know it is three units, 2 to 3 units.

And so, I very carefully, I'm self-aware enough that if I start trying to remember a cluster of four things, I'm going to lose one or lose two of them because the table wobbles and everything slips off in that temporary moment.

So, I have to say No, I can't overload my working memory.

It's a false economy to try and rush through it, so I have to slow down and do it in 2-to-3-unit chunks rather than five-unit chunks, like other people do.

That self-awareness has saved me so much trouble in taking information in and putting it into my memory and processing it that actually, if you've got dyslexia, you've got a processing difference, and working memory often is their co-occurring.

I'd say about 80% of the time.

Would you agree on that co-occurring about 80% of the time?

That's a really good question.

I see working memory part of working memory is information processing because, really, it's a matter of making sense of the sensory information.

So, if you're making sense of sensory information, isn't that processing it is so you can think about it is breaking it into visual processing or auditory processing?

I think that if we had this big umbrella, I think the typical dyslexic would fit under a working memory problem, largely a working memory problem, whereas the person with a D.

H D would probably fit under a different piece of that umbrella, which would be both the inhibitory control and the cognitive flexibility.

Because for inhibitory control, it's a matter of blocking distractions, and cognitive flexibility is kind of shifting attention.

So, they both have to do without attention piece.

But it doesn't mean that every individual with a PhD has inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility issues.

That's the thing.

It's No.

Two kids with dyslexia or ADHD have the same nuance have the same basic core cognitive processing deficits.

They seem to have their own little mixture of problems, would you say?

But that mixture is made out of these three colors of yellow, blue, and red is it where they kind of blend them to their own color tone mixture.

Is that what you're saying?

I like I like how you say that.

Yes, I would say dyslexia brings in processing speed issue or not.  There could be a rapid automatic naming issue or not.

There could be an auditory processing issue or not.

Maybe it's visual processing that got them to that diagnosis.

But I like the idea of using colors that yes, here are the classic colors of dyslexia and each kid mixes their own unique colors.

So, the colors are similar, but they're not the same.


Okay, let's work on this because part of our podcast is how to take the abstract and to put it into some sort of visual metaphorical language to help us process it and internalize it and digest it.

So, if we took working memory and inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility and gave each color red, blue and yellow, which would you give to which and why?

Oh, that's interesting.

So, I like the idea of using the primary colors because we are conducting our cognitive skills through executive function through that executive functioning umbrella.

I'm going to go with my gut instinct.

For some reason, working memory feels really yellow to me.

I was going to say the same.

It's so funny because it takes me back to graduate school where I had a friend, and we color coded all of our friends.

And it was amazing how we always pick the same colors.

Okay, so what would you go for?

Inhibitory control?

One has to be read and one has to be blue.

Yes, I think inhibitory control would be red and cognitive flexibility would be blue.

Yeah, I'd agree.

But what was your rationale?

I wasn't going with.

The rationale is going with a gut instinct, but our gut has a lot of wisdom to it.

So, um, it's funny that I would go with the gut instinct there, but I know we can analyze it.

Why we did that, but we've just becoming the stuff.

But I think along with the car analogy, I think having an image. This is what I would do with my students and my kids.

And I would say, Okay, this is what working memory is.

I want everybody to come up with their own story, their own metaphor.

So, like inhibitory control.

Really good one that we talked about in the past.

Or blinkers, which is what the horses wear to block distractions.

So, if they just think of inhibitory control as these red blinkers on a horse, then they can hold on to that that concept, then they know how to use it like, oh, oh, I've got to put my blinkers on.

Yes, Yeah, absolutely.

So, let's just I would give cognitive flexibility blue, because blue is the color of flexibility, of rhythm, of waves, of fluidity, you know, adaption.

Okay, and maybe is more of a sort of.

It's a flexibility.

It's not about how do you react to something, but how do you adapt to something?

And inhibitory control is much more of a red color, which is like an action react.

Do you react a lot?

Are you a high red as it were?

Or a low red, pink?

Can you control that reaction?

Inhibit your reaction and guide it, you know, right?

Like the red stop sign.

Stop, you know, and I love it.



So, if I used to teach this to a young child.

Let's take this as an example.

Let's teach it to the young child within us, working memory is like, Yeah, a yellow spotlight.

So, it's shining like we talked about in the previous episode.

This conductor.

It's like a stage.

You've got a spotlight, and it's got a certain size, and there's a certain number of things that it can light up and not light up.

So, working memory is this light that shines and its spots certain things, that information that's coming into your mind.

You spot it, you grab it and you put it into your short term or long-term memory, or you get rid of it because it's not relevant.

Okay, right?

Or you even dipped into long term memory, right?

Oh, yeah.

Through that?

Yes, yes.

Now we still have the conductor of cognitive skills, right?

So, the conductor is still conducting, so to speak, that the stage from the outside, so to speak, right?

So that that kind of works because, you know, you might even have a symphony.

Do you know what I know?

You use this analogy a lot and I'll be honest with you, Erica it doesn't work with me.

What doesn't work with you being a conductor?

Why not?

I don't relate to it at all.

I relate to driving a car because it's something I can really picture.

I think of executive function as being the driver in my life, being in the driving seat rather than the back seat.

You use that you alluded to that in your metaphor, being in the back seat rather than the front, I think of it much more as a driver.

So, the cognitive flexibility is adapting to the environment.

Like if it's raining or windy or you know something is happening, you're willing to adapt.

Rather, no, I'm going to go, you know, full speed into the fog and crash.

Inhibitory control is another aspect of driving etcetera.

You know.

Well, it's so interesting that you say that because when I work with students, I let them pick the metaphor that resonates with them the most.

So, I'm glad that you said that, so the conductor of cognitive skills resonates with me, but it's interesting when I present to kids, I give them options.

I can say you can be an air traffic controller.

You know, and that's where you've got thoughts coming.

You could be a traffic conductor.

It's a complicated intersection, and you've got to be able to make sense of all the stuff that's around you and get everything to move in a way that's going to work.

And for kids that really love animals.

You could even associate these different ones with animals, I'm sure.

So, basically, what you're describing is executive roles in different spheres.

Executive music is the conductor Executive role in traffic is the policeman directing executive role in air traffic is the air traffic controller.

I like it.

What's the executive role in the world of animals?

You could make it like the lion.

Technically, Oh, you're like the apex predator.

You could be.

But this is what's fun.

You see, when the kids start to create their own metaphor, then they really get it.

Yeah, yeah, I'm getting a metaphor.

I'm getting a metaphor digger.

I want to be like, you know, I like the vehicle, okay, but there's one thing about being the vehicle and driving, but what you're trying to do is expand it, and I appreciate that.

Expanding it into an executive function role where you're actually synchronizing a wider range of things rather than just your vehicle as it were or your instrument or whatever.

Yeah, like the conductor.

What if I was like, uh, you know how on a building site?

Oh, that would be my one being on a building site with diggers and construction stuff.

And so, what would be the executive?

A building site.

It would be like the foreman of the building site.

Yes, that's my excellent.

And again, if I was working with little kids and they loved animals, you know, I had mentioned the lion because he's like the king of the jungle, so to speak.

But if you go back to the story of the lion, the witch, and the wardrobe, I don't know if you know that story.


Yes, Aslan.

So as land would be kind of the conductor.

Oh, my goodness me?


And as Lane sang all of Narnia into existence at the beginning.

How perfect is that?



Oh, my goodness.

You see, this would be a salon now, Erica.

Well, this is what makes it fun.

And that's what it's all about.

It's about allowing the kids to play with these ideas and digest them in a way that they they're like, I've got it and that's what I do with working with all of my students when they're struggling with an academic subject, we find so something that they love and they're passionate about.

And we integrate that into the concept so that they can grasp it and manipulate it and play with it and understand it.

So, if we bring this all the way around back to original question of working memories, relationship to dyslexia and working memories relationship to a D h d.

I've got a language now, Okay?

Children with dyslexia are maybe weaker on the yellow working memory, but still have a strong inhibitory control.

Still have a strong cognitive flexibility.

For example, there's a lot of people with dyslexia who are incredibly cognitive, flexible, you know their ability to adapt with dynamic thinking, respond to changes circumstances.

Yeah, you know, they're very strong in the blue and kind of light on the yellow and maybe middle on the inhibitory control.

You put all that together, you've got quite a lot of blue and a little bit of red.

You're a bit of a purple person.

You had some thoughts on this whole dynamic of ADHD and dyslexia and the umbrella of executive function and umbrella term SPL specific learning differences as one big umbrella term that takes in the spectrum from autism to dyslexia to ADHD

A whole range of nuances of specific learning differences.

Can you give us some sort of picture of how you're seeing it in terms of executive function?

Well again, it's that executive that manages our cognition.

So, everybody's cognition is affected by that umbrella of cognitive functioning of executive functioning because it's all a matter of kind of executing and organizing planning Time Management Organization.

It's pulling all the pieces together so that they work in a United Force.

But you know, it's interesting because dyslexia and 80 HD often not always go hand in hand.

So, you've got those kids that have dyslexia and a D H d.

And so, they've really got a rainbow of issues.

So, in terms of executive function, they're weak and two of the areas like working memory and inhibitory control.

As a result, they might be strong and cognitive flexibility, but that three-legged stool falls over quite a lot if those two legs are quite short.

But I also believe that they're going to be those kids that are a little bit weaken all three of these.

But there's no reason why we can't strengthen or build those legs.

And I think in education or were not simplifying our instruction enough to build these legs to the full capacity that we should be, because I think that the way that I describe it is when you do a full body workout, you're never going to really strengthen a week bicep.

And I think a lot of what we do academically are these kind of full body workouts, full cognition workouts and we're not going in and strengthening those weak legs to the stool.

And I think going in and strengthening those weak legs is really important.

And the beauty about it is it's so much fun because it's all.

There are so many games that you can play going back to those elementary games like red light green light.

Did you guys ever play that game?

So, there's someone in the front and they're facing away from everybody else sits behind them and they say red light and then they shift around, and they go green light and if anybody is moving their out, but you know a lot of these games hand clapping games.

One of my new projects is coming out with a bunch of hand clapping games that are actually good for cognition and good for learning.

There's just so many games using your imagination.

Working memory is made up of visualization and your inner voice, and there's so many fun games that you can play to strengthen your capacity to visualize and also how to manage and use your inner voice.

But even so, many of the card games that we have, and the board games that we have and just having more fun playing games that really help us to step into that conductor role is amazing and key, and kids love it.

I love it, and in many ways, Eric, it was you that woke me up to all of the executive function possibilities and the importance of it.

And although it was there, and I hope you as listeners are getting this from Erica as well.

I think when you think of executive function many ways, it's like saying Who's in charge.

It's about the skills you need to be in charge, okay?

And a child can understand what being in charge is.

And in fact, they want to become an adult because they want to become in charge of their own lives and to become in charge of your own life.

You need executive function skills in charge skills, yes, and so what we're talking about is who's in charge of the orchestra?

The conductor who's in charge of the airport, the air traffic controller, etcetera.

And that's essentially what we're saying to the child.

And it's just a great avenue in because I remember as a primary school teacher in the Rudolf Steiner school, one of the things that they said was one of the core drivers’ children have is to become an adult, and you have to speak to them right from the beginning to say I know children.

You all want to become an adult one day, and to become an adult one day, you will need to learn X your prime ng them.

You will need to learn what this shape means, and that shape is a letter, and it means this and the reason why we learn that letter is so that we can be adults in the adult world, because adults use these to tell each other what they're thinking and doing and their ideas and so on.

And the child gets intrinsic motivation to go, and do it because they're hardwired biologically, emotionally, and mentally to do whatever it takes to become an adult.

Right or one way that I often take that same concept and present it to a child is we have to figure out how you can manifest your superpower.

Everybody has a superpower, but in order to be able to manifest that superpower, you have to be able to communicate with other people, and you have to be able to relate to other people, and you've got to be able to put yourself into the world.

But you've got to find your essence and your essence and your strength and your passion, and part of being able to do that is being able to control your own cognition, control your emotions, control your thoughts, you know, make sense of your thoughts use your thoughts.

Use your memories learning, learning how to encode information so that you can remember things learning how to visualize so that you can access all of this amazing knowledge that you have so that you can really manifest again.

That superpower that lies within all of us.

I like it, but I still think I have difficulties with the language.

Okay, talk to me about that.

So, if you were to take those same three things like if we could talk about working memory, inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility with simpler language that didn't dumb it down but did simplify it.

If we said to a child, right, you need to have good working memory.

Well, OK, but what would that be?

You need to be able to take in information, working memory.

You need to be able to focus in on what you want, and cognitive flexibility is adapt to the world around you.

So, it's like taking information, focus on what you want and adapt to the world around you.

I'm just taking off the top of my head right now.

But if there was some language that we could keep repeatedly using, that was honest to the scientific framework of this, you know, they would be really helpful.

What about having this kind of superpower cape and that the cape has these three colors on it, and then some like it.

Some kids need to develop those different colors.

I don't like the superpower cape for one reason.

Okay, I think executive function control are like, Okay, you might have real strengths in working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility.

But there's a whole range of other abilities out with that that are being directed by these three abilities.

But you have these special abilities out with, so your superpower isn't necessarily those three individual things that are combining them.

The superpower is when you're talking about superpower you're talking about, you might have a super violin, you know?

But the conductor is directing that violin and the cello.

It's about finding your unique abilities and making sure you can direct those unique abilities.

There are two separate things going on there.

You're conflating them, aren't you?

With the with that cape analogy?

Not necessarily.

I'm just saying that what you want to do is you want to build those three colors and that enables you to manifest your own unique color.

Because I think we all have this kind of inner strength within us that we want to rise, and we want to be able to.

I'm kind of thinking more about you know how you had that learning style thing.


What did you call it?

Your eclectic learning profile, which looks at 12 different ways of processing.

Yes, your eclectic learning profile.

I'm just kind of trying to That could be the Connect this into the executive function thing as well.

You know, do you think the eclectic learning profile is give us a quick rundown of those 12 learning styles you talked about?

So, there are actually ways of processing.

So, its visual being able to process things visually, you know, and you can think about that as you know, pulling all the information into your working memory through these different ways of processing.

So, there's visual.

There's auditory, there's tactile touch.

There is kinesthetic movement of the body.

There's sequential, which is from basically from information processing, sequencing, things simultaneous, which is being able to categorize things.

There's verbal, which is verbalizing.

There is interactive which is interacting with others.

There is a reflective logical, which is your ability to just kind of reflect on what you're doing, which is a little bit more of that meta cognition, being aware of your own cognition and thinking about thinking.

Then there's indirect experience, which is vicarious learning, which is watching other people do a demonstration.

There's direct experience, which is actually going through the experience yourself.

And then there is finally rhythmic and melodic, one that's rarely used.

But for some kids, it's a game changer, which is the 13th.

One is olfactory.

Not many kids use it right?

Smell that not many kids used in the learning process.

But I've had some kids that I haven't been able to reach, and that was the secret spot.

But it's pretty rare, so these are like 12 different ways that you accent.

You help Children access and process information right.

Everybody can process all of those ways to some degree on the continuum unless they are blind, for example.

But even then, they might be able to visualize, but I think developing those skills so that you can absorb as much from your environment as possible by using all of your senses, and it's more than just senses.

It's the kind of the different ways, the colors of processing our reality.

It's interesting because there are animals out there that obviously have a sense that we don't have when there's something like a tsunami animals and no, you know, there's a certain bird that only leaves a location based on what they know about the environment, in the sense that they are able to avoid any kind of natural disaster, any kind of weather pattern, why we just don't have the ability.

I mean, we struggle to figure out what the weather is, but some animals don't.

So, they clearly have another sense that we don't have were limited to the senses that we have.

But we can develop them just like for example, when someone becomes blind, their other senses become more acute much better.

But I think we can develop those senses so that we can process information better, or we can even just learn how to process.

We might naturally process one way, but we can learn to process another way, so we map that onto these three aspects of working memory.

Where does that map to working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility.

Do all those mostly relate to working memory, different ways of processing and absorbing that information as it's coming through?

Yeah, I mean, I guess I if I had to put information processing somewhere, I would probably put it under working memory because it's really the players in the spotlight of that stage.

So, and then inhibitory control is really more of whether you're going to bring that information in or not.

Yes, and then cognitive flexibility is like juggling with that information inhibitory control.

Yes, it's whether you bring that information or not, but it's also more as well about what you're going to do with that information.

Are you going to act on it?

Are you going to react to it?

Are you going to block it out or not?

So, there's a little bit more agency and decision making in that element as well.

Yeah, there's a little bit more executive control.

That's right territory.

It's more of an executive for inhibitory control.

Absolutely, yes, it's almost like the gavel.

You know, if you were a judge, that's a whole another metaphor that you could use.

Oh, could we use another metaphor if we want a proliferation of metaphors here?

Could they be like three different people acting in concert as a team?

Yeah, why not?

Well, that's the thing is, this is so complex and we're trying to simplify it.

And whenever we simplify it too much, then we're like we lost it.

Yeah, yeah, you know, when you've got goo in your hand, what do they call it?

And when you try to hold and it just dribbles your fingers, that's how I feel about so much of this is that the more you try to contain it, the more it dribbles through your fingers.

But we can't let ourselves have it as it's got to firm up a little bit.

That's right, so that we can take control over it and own it as it were.

That's right because we can't own it or control it if we don't understand it.

Yes, and our understanding needs to tighten up a little bit, but not harden, so there's still flexibility in it.

But it's not complete good.

And I think that's what we are wrestling with and helping other people wrestle with, which is let's not just allow it to be something ethereal and mysterious, and this is not a nice to have.

This is a need to have and on the spectrum of nice to have and need to have.

There are lots of things that are nice to have, but the one some of the things that you really need to have are the need to have the ability to control your own life, direct your own life and be in charge of your own life.

And that is, in essence, executive function ability.

You know what else it is?

It's in essence happiness.

Well, there are some people.

Well, is it?

Some people are very happy, other people just telling them what to do and then drifting along in life.

That's very interesting that you said that.

So, I think people that are really bright, really highly intelligent, really need to learn to be their own executive, and they really need to have they need to control their executive functioning skills.

You're right, and then those that don't have as high an intellect and they just some of them just so comfortable following the directions of others.

And that's what really resonates with them because they can't handle the executive functioning piece themselves.

They would like somebody else to do it for them.

And then they are very happy to follow along.

Are you saying their happiness is found in a different place?

Yeah, I think so.

I think there are leaders and there are followers, and some people are happy being leaders.

And some are happy, happy being followers.

And thank God we have both of those types of people in this world.

Otherwise, we'd probably have even more conflict.

Okay, so if we clarified, what we're saying is that we are speaking to those people who do want to be in charge of their lives and people who want to help Children be in charge of their life and adults and themselves as in charge of their life.

These three areas of working memory, inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility are crucial to us understanding how to be in charge of our lives well, and it's also crucial in being a good student.

Yes, absolutely.

That's the motivation there.

If we tie in dyslexia and ADHD

In terms of being a good student as well, what often you find is dyslexia.

Starts can undermine the working memory aspect of executive function and ADHD undermine inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility.

So, you know, that's we're kind of, like, talked ourselves into saying, Yeah, we're quite comfortable with understanding how that overlap with executive function is happening.

Yeah, I think so.

I think the bottom line is any kind of cognitive processing fits under executive functioning.

Yes, because it's that organization piece of it and what I find fascinating.

Once you've gone into the black box in this way of executive function and realize that there's these three elements and the overlap isn't directly over executive function with dyslexia and ADHD

It's actually over different aspects of executive function.

I think that's really quite fascinating.

Yeah, I know.

I thought this was a great discussion because it really teases it apart.

It really revealed the complexity of it, and as soon as we simplified it enough into a metaphor would be like, Oh, but what about this?

And maybe we need to make it bigger.

Oh, maybe we need to make it smaller or bigger or smaller.

This, this image, that image.

But I think it all comes back to the idea of having these discussions with kids, allowing them to come up with a metaphor that's comfortable for themselves so that they can really start to understand their cognition.

Because once they start to understand what they're capable of doing, then perhaps they'll start to step into it and learn those different processes.

And you can.

You can actually improve your working memory.

You can improve your inhibitory control, and you can improve your cognitive flexibility, but you have to understand it first.

Then once you understand it, I have a lot of activities that I do with students to build those different skills.

I know you do as well, and there's a lot of research out there, too.

I know Harvard University has a lot of information on executive functioning and breaks it down into the different age groups and of what you can do to help them to develop those skills.

But I have to say I love working on executive functioning because from my perspective, it really gamifies cognition.

It's about really exercising those different core skills to the point where they build them.

It's a really big win.

So, number one, it's fun like you, said Gamify number two.

It appeals to the child's intrinsic motivation to be in charge of their life, to be an adult, which is what we said, and number three.

It gives such fast feedback and return on investment of time and focus compared to developing another skill.

Or, you know, learning your grammar a bit better or learning.

I mean, in my own experience.

It's like you could go away and want to improve your story writing technique.

Okay, and you could spend tons of time learning the skill of grammar or spelling, and you could up your grade by one or two points out of 100.

But if you spend time on your working memory, how you took in your ideas and organize them and plan them out and created a better structured visual outline of what you're doing with the mind map or bullet map process like we do or some other visual organizer, you could up your points by 15 points or 20 points with the same amount of effort.

That's the effect of concentrating on this small area of executive function.

Yeah, it's fantastic.

I mean, that's where I see real gains and longstanding gains with the students where they're really able to develop those core cognitive skills and they get that flexibility of thought, and they can inhibit the things that are going on around them.

And then they can work their memory and work and pork.

Oh, I see what you're doing.

I see what you're doing.

You're making these terms much more accessible.

But yeah, you work your memory, you work it.

Let's work our memory.

Let's put out that spotlight and let's access that information.

Let's chew that cut that we've got you know, all that sensory cut that we've got and make sense of it.

These three aspects of executive function could be more like characters.

People working memory has a characteristic inhibitory control.

The stop sign has a characteristic, and cognitive flexibility has a characteristic like Blue has a characteristic.

If you actually turn them into a character of some sort, then maybe the Children could relate to them as characters two and the three of them are in charge that we've got those three aspects inside of us that are in charge and one of those characters is maybe a bit stronger.

And the other two maybe need a little bit of training and attention and skilling up, right?

Just learning about the character, itself will help you to manifest that within yourself.

So, you know what, Darius?

You and I need to spend a little bit of time and let's develop these three characters.

I think that's a lovely idea.

We've got the colors of the three characters we do.

Let's do this.

Yeah, let's do that.

In another episode, there might be some people who are listening who would quite enjoy the thinking process we go through to process that, which is very much.

What we're doing in the podcast is just personally just processing a lot and just letting other people look in on it.

We're not presenting finished results were just being honest about how this is We're learning ourselves.

We're adapting.

We're learning how to teach it.

We're learning how to relate to ourselves.

We help other people relate to these concepts.

Yeah, I mean, we can I know you love to process things.

You're like my processing buddy, and I'm the type of person where I'm like, oh, wow, I want to organize my ideas.

I want to I want to tease out the things that don't work so that we can present something that that's shiny and okay, I tell you what, Eric.


We can afford it.

And if it's any good, we'll share it.

Oh, that's a great idea.

And of course, which is what I do all the time is I will preprocess because that's how I process.

I like to go through some of those executive functioning that meta cognition myself.

I like to conduct my own cognitive skills before I jump in, whereas I know that you and I've seen it when you go in cold turkey, that's when your best self-arises.

I'm my best self when I've preprocessed.

I live in the world of instant clog native flexibility, and I think part of it is I think it's a working memory challenge.

It's where I deal with my working memory because if I can see everything and hear everything all at once while it's happening and I'm in the midst of it and I'm adapting to in the midst of it.

Then all of me can participate.

But the moment it starts getting drawn out and I have to start using my working memory to remember what we did before and connected to this and things get disconnected, then my working memory undermines what I'm doing, and I start.

I don't bring the best of me to the table.

Do you see what I mean?

I do what an interesting discussion.

Because it really just goes to underline how everybody processes differently and how important it is that we allow people to process differently because we as human beings, are always trying to force people to process the way that we process.

And you and I have a lot of fun with that, because you and I process completely differently than each other.

But you pull me out of my comfort zone sometimes, and we get to places that are really quite new and interesting for me, you know?

So, um, yeah, great.

Well, we will definitely tease this out in another podcast, but I think next week we talked a little bit about doing something a little different, which was how to motivate students to do their own homework.

Okay, let's do that.

And why don't we give listeners a little bit of homework to do the homework I would set you is How would you visualize these three characters in executive function?

The character of working your memory, the character of controlling and inhibitions inhibitory control and the character of cognitive flexibility?

What do they look like for you?

And it might be fascinating for you to think through that and maybe come to it.

And whenever this these three characters pop up in our podcast, you've processed it yourself.

Yeah, and please, I would love to hear your thoughts.

So, email us or leave some comments in the podcast and we'd love to hear what you have to say.

I think we might I might end up having to go onto Twitter, Erica.

So, people can d m s via Twitter or something.

Anyway, thank you very much, guys.

See you in the next episode, Erica.


Thank you for joining our conversation here at the personal brain trainer podcast.

This is Dr Erica Warren and Darius Namdaran. Check out the show notes for links to resources mentioned in the podcast.

And please leave us a review and shares on social media until next time.