Understanding how ADHD impacts on a child's executive functioning skills is crucial to supporting them in the classroom - and helping them achieve the success they're truly capable of.
In Part 2 of this episode, ADHD expert and founder of DIG Coaching Practice Jeff Copper, reveals more of his insights into the difficulties and challenges that kids with ADHD have and how we can effectively support them in school.
Visit Jeff's website here: Dig Coaching
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Show notes / transcription
Jeff Copper 0:00
You know, we're adults, we're mature. We're talking about kids. I don't think the executive function brains mature till you're 28. If you got somebody with ADHD, the general rule is take 25% off the age. So you know, if you got a 10 year old, you're dealing with executive function of a 7 and half year old, right? So if you're dealing, let's say a 13 year old, it's like a 10 year old, right? We've got to be really, really, really, really patient.
Simon Currigan 0:19
Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan. And I'm excited to welcome you to another episode of school behaviour secrets where defying all common sense or logic our listener numbers are actually growing. And if you're a fan of niche school behaviour related information, good for you. You found your people. Hosting the podcast with me today is the amazing Emma Shackleton. Hi, Emma,
Emma Shackleton 1:20
Simon Currigan 1:21
Emma, to start the podcast this week, I'd like to ask you a quick question. Have you ever started something that you never finished but really wished you had?
I can see where this is going. And yes, I started a jewellery making night school class last term and quit after two weeks, meaning that I ended up with a lovely shiny rectangle of metal, and not the beautiful earrings I was hoping for when I started the class. And I'm guessing that you've asked me this question because this is part two of your interview with Jeff Copper on the subject of ADHD?
That's right. Last week, I started interviewing Jeff from DIG coaching about why looking at ADHD as an executive functioning disorder can be a really powerful mindset shift. And he shared so much good information rather than edit lots of it out and make one standard length episode, we decided to run the interview across two podcast episodes, so we didn't have to leave anything out. So if you're joining us for the first time today, or you didn't catch last week's episode, it may be worth going back and listening to last week's podcast. First,
I can't wait to hear the rest of this interview. But before we press play, I've got a small favour to ask if you're finding the content of this podcast useful, please don't keep it to yourself, spread the love by opening up your podcast app now, and sharing this episode with a couple of colleagues that would also find it useful. It's a really quick and easy way of helping your friends and having a bigger impact in the world. And now here's part two of Simon's interview with Jeff.
Jeff Copper 3:00
Now, if you've got a teenager, right, and they're on a technology that has access, and forgive me, for my I don't mean this to be sexist, or vulgar. But I just need an example is got a 14 year old male that's in heat, right. And he's getting a text from a female. And I don't care how easy you make this up. From the self regulation perspective, there's a lot of reward to that it's hard to overcome that. But But that's why this technology so bad is because we have some of those tools that are tempting these people. So when you're working with people with ADHD, my goal is number one, you got to remove the temptations because they're very dopamine driven. So something like that is just difficult. But it's a balance of removing some of the fun temptations. But you got to make the thinking easy, because if you don't, they're going to escape. So it's a balancing act. You just don't say abstain from social media or YouTube or whatever that is, you don't just abstain from it, you got to do the there's a balance to this.
Simon Currigan 3:50
And you know, I see in classrooms, often kids are given iPads, and how to do a piece of work on an iPad. Well, actually, when you think about it, if you're being asked to do some work, which you might find difficult and you don't have like the physical props, necessarily that you need around you to support you without thinking. But on the iPad, there's a host of other interesting dopamine rich activities for you to select from. Well, what are you going to do? Are you going to stick with the hard thing that's putting you in pain? Are you going to click on that nice, rewarding thing over that is gonna give me instant feedback?
Jeff Copper 4:18
It's like crack cocaine. It's just sitting there. Like, why would you take it like if you Google marshmallow test, there was a thing when Cal Berkeley that they did have a kid in the room, they put a marshmallow in front of them. The teacher says, Listen, if you don't touch that, if you don't eat it, I'll come back. I'll give you two right? And they videotape and you see these kids looking at playing with but they all eat the marshmallow. That's all self regulation is the temptation. So as long as those temptations are there for the ADD crowd. This is punitive. Because most of those temptations, they've cracked the code. If you just go watch the social dilemma on Netflix, it's incredible documentary, basically the people on social media and game stuff. They've cracked the code and they know exactly what to do crack the primitive brain because the ADHD brain is a very reward driven brain. The high correlation between it and addictive behaviour. And if you put that in front of them, it's going to be difficult. So these technologies that we're giving them are wrought with instant gratification. Whereas like in days of old, like, you know, in the old days, I used to read a newspaper, it didn't have a hyperlink, right? I read a book, I didn't have a hyperlink, now you go online. And there's just page after page of temptation after temptation. And again, these things are challenging yet, we keep saying, We got to get our kids to adapt to these new technologies, what I understand that they got to live in it, but you're testing their primitive side of wanting to feel good and trying to get them to learn and just saying you need to try harder is just it's like use a weakness to overcome a weakness, it makes no sense. So we go back to executive functioning. And if you begin to understand them individually, and collectively, you can make all kinds of interesting things like emotional regulation is when you feel threatened. Right? Remember, it's a reflex you have reflexively react when you feel threatened with your life. You got to fight flight or freeze. It's it's a primitive thing. That's it's important. It's there. Well, what's interesting is self awareness means you've got to confront yourself, you got to call yourself out, that's threatening people with ADHD resist it. So you've got somebody with ADHD and you're going to them in earnest, I come in peace. But for them, it feels like criticism, and they fight back. So now we can begin to understand the impairment here is even when you're trying to help them, it's like you got to help treat them with kid gloves. Because if you're going there to help, and you're not doing the right way, the challenge of regulating their emotion goes off the charts. And when they resist, they really, it's hard. It's like going in and trying to talk somebody to change religion, or change or politics. The more you talk, the less they listen to you, they kind of fight back. I'm not saying it's an easy dynamic, but it's if you don't know it, your reflexive reaction is probably the worst thing for you to do, if you know what I'm saying, because you're pushing them away. We also sit there and say, you know, recall, is the ability to remember things. So like I talked about, if you're going to go on a trip somewhere, and you got to pack your neurotypical might visualise the trip, and they walk their way through the trip. That's visual imagery. And oh my god, I'm getting off the aeroplane, it's gonna be cold, I gotta go get a jacket. That's a que thing. You saw that it's queuing your memory to go get a jacket as opposed to free recall, where you just pull it out of thin air. So what they do is they go through the simulation of it in their mind to queue and pack well person with ADHD, they get oh my god, it's cold, they go get their jacket, and they come back and evaporated. They don't know where they are in the movie. So they got to start back at the beginning, right? Listen, anything that's tedious and boring, is physically uncomfortable for all they do is escape. And you can see how this little act is difficult. But what I'm going to is pulling that information from their mind is cued recall. So you'll often see a kid with ADHD with a lot of visual things out because if they're not out, they're not going to remember it. So we'll say put it all away. Well, that's like, out of sight out of mind. But you have other people with ADHD were when they have all that stuff out that represents it to do and it's a burden from they feel pressure and they can't think. For them. They've got to put everything completely away. I'm OCD Well, no, you're not. Oh, is an obsessive thought. It's irrational, clearing everything away so that you don't have any visual items that are creating stress for you so that you can focus. That's just working memory because of clutter in your mind. So what I just said they're described as you've got two people with a working memory challenge, and how they deal with it is completely different. There's no one tip trick or strategy, it really comes down to observation of that person and sitting there say, there's legitimate reason why they're doing that. What is that? Because it's not until you say it's legitimate, because instinctively they're doing it for reason. Now, one of the problems is of course, they leave it all out. And when they have everything out that they've got to remember in a day, it's all invisible, like they become anaesthetised, and, you know, that's where I work with people to help them understand, you know, you're driving down the road too far on one side, you're off the road too far on the other side. But the point really is because at some point in time, I'm sure you're going to ask me so what are these teachers do what you know, where do they go. And it's really understanding executive functioning and learning to observe behaviour, not for what's going wrong, but for the legitimate reason why they're doing what they're doing, because you're observing visible behaviour. If you wonder, cognitively, the legitimate reason why they're doing it, you're better apt to get to what the root cause is. Because most people don't think of instinct, water runs downhill, because it's the path of least resistance. People behaviour is the path of least resistance, they do things almost for reason all the time. And if you understand the cognitive behaviour, and you're asking, I wonder why a lot of times you'll actually be able to reveal what the root cause is and be able to do something with it
Simon Currigan 9:37
Yeah, so this to me sounds it's not tactics and strategies. What this is, is a different way of thinking. It's almost like, like a scientific process. You're observing behaviour. You're thinking about the executive functions and you're trying to track back in your mind, potentially here. Which of these executive functions might be leading to this behaviour? And then I'm guessing you experiment and you try different things and see what works and see what doesn't?
Jeff Copper 9:59
Simon Currigan 9:59
Because You can't see in someone's mind, you can only make assumptions. So this might be iterative, it might be trying something out, some things might work, some things might not, we keep what works, throw away what doesn't try something new. And I understand the approach.
Jeff Copper 10:11
It is, I'll be honest, for the teachers this is a real challenge, because you got a lot of stuff that's going on in a classroom, and you got all kinds of dirt. I mean, we're just talking about ADHD, let's forget all the other issues that you got to deal with. So I don't want to minimise just being kind of complex.
Simon Currigan 10:22
But the kind of people that listen to this podcast are interested in supporting those individuals. So this is gold. If you're listening to this, and you remember this podcast community, I think this is absolute gold.
Jeff Copper 10:32
There's different kinds of thinking there's methodical thinking, which is like solving an algebra problem for x. If you understand math, an order of operations, you can get the right answer every, every single time, it's just applying a set of rules. That's like the Holy Grail, then you have like trial and error thinking that's like Suduko, or a crossword puzzle, then you have what I call insightful thinking that's where you have to pay attention to it completely different in order to get it insightful thinking requires trial and error. And insightful thinking is like, out of the box insights, aha, the I get it, that type of stuff. And it's trial and error. And you can't control when those Aha, I mean, they haven't coming out of the shower when you're driving, no. And it's anywhere where you don't have something to write it down. That's what I'm going to show. And so if you begin to understand the different thinking processes in the people, so you've got a kid that's there, and they're running a trial and error scenario. So we talked at the beginning about organisation, how am I going to do this? Well, when they're running a trial and error, if they were to sit down and write down all the options, and all the pros and cons, it's just not going to happen, because it's too tedious, it's too boring, they're going to escape it. So they're doing it inside their mind. And they just want to escape that. So what do you do? Well, it's easier for them, if you gauge them in a conversation. All right, two things are happening. Number one, they're talking out loud, it's making it easier for them to think. And you're asking them questions to help cue their recall of different types of things. And so what happens is, is because you're making thinking easier, and you're engaged with them, right, they pay attention to it a little bit longer. Now, one kid might be like that. And a lot of times you're like, you know, if you're dealing with a six year old or a 14 year old, because they'll get off on a tangent, but if you understand what you're doing, and you willfully can ask them questions to help them move along, that can be very helpful for that person, then mirror back to him. You know, I noticed you do a lot of thinking out loud, you have you noticed is that whenever we're talking is that you always get an AHA on your own, what you're doing is you're helping them and then you're modelling to them, of helping them come to realisation of that's what works 14 year olds, not very good at self observation. And they don't want to do it that way. But if they hear that, hey, when you talk out loud, you solve problems for two or three years, at some point in time it starts to sink in. And you help them understand what they need to do an advocate for themselves. So you've got those types of scenarios, or now you got other people that there's an issue that they've got relationship wise with somebody else, and they're trying to figure out how to solve it's the same trial and error thinking press because they're running a gazillion things in their head. But the problem is, is they keep forgetting, they keep starting, it's like Groundhog Day, they keep going over and over and over and over and over. And to sit down and deal with that person and say listen, let's talk out loud about this. And realise is that, hey, help them kind of land the plane. Because if they're dealing with a trial and error thing with somebody that there's some emotion, they're going to have a hard time letting it go, because it's emotional. And what will end up happening is some of them will begin to ruminate, and then they'll start to go to shame and blame. And this is an emotional self regulation, but it's impaired thinking to solve that problem, that's going to send them down a rabbit hole. So a lot of times you'd like to pull them out and say, Hey, as a teacher, this is kind of challenging the middle of the day, but at least we understand what the problem is. And hopefully people can start to use some creativity on how they manage some of that different situations. But I've just again used executive functioning the thinking process into your head and emotions and now we begin to understand what's going on emotionally with some of the social dynamics that are going on is that they're having a hard time thinking inside their head and they're doing it by themselves. And sometimes you know for the right kid and you're making the right observations you can make an intervention and sit down and give them the talk about them get them to calm down to down regulate for them to think so a lot there.
Simon Currigan 14:08
I'd just like to take a pause for a moment and say that if you're finding this podcast useful, then you're going to love what we've got waiting for you in our Inner Circle programme. The Inner Circle is your one stop shop of all things behaviour. It's a comprehensive platform filled with videos, resources and behaviour inspiration to get you unstuck with classroom behaviour. We've got training resources on de escalation, supporting kids with anxiety support strategies for conditions like autism, ADHD, and PDA. practical ways of helping pupils deal with strong emotions, assertive behaviour management techniques for managing the whole classroom setting out to a classroom environment for success. Resetting behaviour with tricky classes and more. Our online videos walk you through practical solutions step by step. Just like Netflix, you can turn an Inner Circle subscription on or off whenever you need to. With no minimum contract Plus, you can now get your first seven days of Inner Circle for just one pound. Get the behaviour answers, and you've been looking forward today with inner circle visit to www.beaconschoolsupport.co.uk. and click on the Inner Circle picture near the top of the homepage for more information.
In the UK at the moment, there's a lot of work going on on like metacognition, and helping children understand for themselves how they think and understand their own kind of emotions. people listening to this will be teaching kids from about the age of 4 up to the age of 18. But talking to them about executive functions and explaining that, you know, we all have different strengths and weaknesses, and helping them identify and structure their work. And we've talked, I've just wondered that kind of like having those conversations about self awareness, and where those strengths and weaknesses are and the strategies that are working for them and not working for them. How valuable is that? Are they too young?
Jeff Copper 16:00
You know, we're adults, we're mature, we're talking about kids. I don't think the executive function brains mature till you're 28. If you've got somebody with ADHD, the general rule is take 25% off the age. So you know, if you got a 10 year old, you're dealing with executive function of a seven half year old, right? So if you're dealing, let's say a 13 year old, it's like a 10 year old, right? By the way, what's a strength? Precisely? And I want you to be specific, what exactly is a strength?
Simon Currigan 16:22
Something you've experienced more success with?
Jeff Copper 16:24
How do I know what my strength is?
Simon Currigan 16:25
All right, it's something that I experienced success easily. It feels easy. So it's easy to get an outcome compared to the people that I observe around me.
there's an element of ease. And there's an element of accomplishment.
Jeff Copper 16:40
So this is the world according to Jeff experience. So don't I was just kind of playing with you. Because I think we get all wrapped up in our head with this really cool vernacular about strengths and weaknesses. And I don't think 11 year old has any clue I know, adults that don't have a clue what that is, say, I want to play to my strengths or what I what I do is, well, what's easy? What's hard about this task? Great. What would be easy? Like, you start asking kids well, what's easy, right? They got something that they can hang their hat on at that age, I'm not so sure because going back to strength is it a talent is a passion is modalities of skills that not again, I don't really know what I mean is that we we use that as alphabet soup, there's no precise definition. We get and we go back to you got to break it down in language that they can understand it and get there. And the other thing too is Rick Wayne's got a quote on self awareness as many eight years report self observation, which they find surprising, because they are poor at self observation. So we want these people to become self aware of executive functioning, and you have to understand is that it's impaired and you know, there. So I like the idea of over time helping them and helping them again, to manage their thoughts. And there's something to it a little bit weak, but we've got to be really, really, really, really patient. I know, I did an interview with Autumn Zitani in 2014. She was in charge of all the curriculum at Sesame Street. And in season 43, they spent the whole season working on self regulation. And part of that was emotional self regulation. So what they did is they had the Muppets on TV or YouTube app or whatever. And they would talk about emotions. And it helped him because kids are emotionally illiterate. So it helped them understand and name different emotions and feel them in their body. And the Muppets would go, Oh, my God, I feel angry, and I feel it's in my back of my neck, and they would stay would model that needs. Okay, I got a belly breathe and Count 123. And so they began to do that they had preschoolers that had watched Sesame Street, do the marshmallow test, and they still had self regulation problems, but they weren't like 30 seconds longer than the average kid. So it's useful. But I think that we have to be realistic on what we're dealing with. And so building that into the system, but I think we got to start at really simple levels. And what what's coming easy to you. And that's not so much in my mind as strength or weakness, at per se, it's actually listening to your instincts tell you what to do. Like, what's the what's easy for me to talk? Oh, really? You need to write the paper how you do that? Well, you might dictate like, why don't you just tell me the paper right now? We could transcribe it. And we have technology to do that. So, To answer your question, I think it's intellectually a great idea. I think practically, you got to break it down in a language that a kid can understand and realise that their brains are probably 30% mature, and meet them where they are,
Simon Currigan 19:17
Jeff, I could talk about this all day long. We're only scratching the surface here. And we've covered an awful lot already. So if you're a teacher, or a parent, actually listen to this podcast. Out of all the things we've talked about. If you want to help a child in your class or your own child, what's really the first step to take to help them with integration in class achieving their potential. What's the very first step?
Jeff Copper 19:41
It's hard Because everybody wants the easy answer.
Simon Currigan 19:43
Give me the real answer. Give me the hard answer.
Jeff Copper 19:45
Personally, I think that Dr. Barkley nailed it. His model explains everything a couple times over and I've only scratched the surface if you study that model, and that's just not for ADHD. It's applicable for everybody just at different places on the continuum. If you do that. And then you have to learn basic observation skills, I forget the name of the woman that went over like she was in the jungle for 18 months, just watching monkeys trying to watch their behaviour, you have to understand is that everybody, behaviour will migrate to the path of least resistance. And if you can begin to understand cognitive behaviour, and then observe the visible behaviour, you can begin to see stuff that's there. Now, again, I alluded I've got this thing, I'm coming out with it. And I have this thing called attention scope, because we have the attention. And it's like a telescope or a microscope, I'm bringing tangibility to help people read the definition what working memory is, but when I put people in a situation where I give them the six words, they go, Oh, that's what that is. Right? Okay. So I'm trying to do some of that stuff. So we can make kind of make it tangible. If you begin to understand that and you sit there and say, each kid's different, I got to learn to problem solve and identify with the root causes each kid I think, long term, it's going to take a little bit of effort to learn that and learn the observation skills. But I think that you'll find that the outcomes a lot better, as opposed to give me just the equation to apply right now. And there's a lot more people subscribing, ADHD and executive functioning model. Thomas Brown's got one, I liked Dr. Barkley a little bit better, because his is a little bit more tangible. But I mean, studying that stuff and learning observing the behaviour, begin to understand the Cognitive Behaviour that's driving that. And again, I go back to a lot of focus issues is a thinking problem. If you don't make thinking easier. Nothing's going to work long term.
Simon Currigan 21:30
Jeff, how can listeners find out more about your resources?
Jeff Copper 21:33
You go to digcoaching.com. That's my website. From there. It's got links to my blogs also. www.Attentiontalkradio.com www.Attentiontalkvideo.com. I will warn you the little bit overwhelming. I've been doing my podcast for like 12 years, I think there's like 600 episodes. Wow, my video channel is a little bit different. Hats off to Jessica McCabe at How toADD and Rick Green. At Rickwantstoknow, they are both kind of TV people. They have the number one and the number two ADHD podcast in the world. I'm thrilled to say I've been number three for five years, they do a great job of making ADHD fun, and kind of getting people in the door. When you watch my stuff, it's going to be a little bit more insightful. Like, for example, people will say I can't finish a project. And I'll talk about how there's people with ADHD that have a learning addiction. They like to learn, learn, learn, learn, and when they get into a project, they do it till they learn it, and then they're done. So like, I had a guy who was trying to finish off his bathroom one time, and I said, I don't think the project was to learn what it's like to be a carpenter not to finish the bathroom. And he's like, what? And we started talking about, like 20 projects. And when the learning ended, it ended did you go, Oh, now you know why you do it from self regulation, you can now say, am I going to do this or not knowing you're not going to finish it? That sounds to me, everybody's gonna like why he's got to finish it? Well, no, that's the way it is. So I do a lot more of that type of stuff to kind of help people understand or I'll talk to people escaping, but that's what that channel is about. But again, to access all that at www.digcoaching.com is the best place.
Simon Currigan 23:01
And just before we finish, we asked this of all our guests, who's the key figure that's influenced you? Or what's the key book that you've read that's had the biggest impact to the way you look at ADHD and the way that you look at the world.
Jeff Copper 23:12
So because of my dyslexia, I don't read anything unless it's a textbook because I have to be efficient. But without a doubt, the greatest moment in my life was when I reached out to Dr. Russell Barkley, and I did my first interview with him March the 11th. I think 2011 on emotional self regulation. And in that moment, it was amazing. To me, it was transformational. Number one, you know, most researchers that it's just about getting published, he actually and he wasn't really open to the coaching paradigm at that particular time, but I was honoured that he did it. And his job was to get the information to the masses on the street. And in that interview, I remember it took me like eight hours to kind of get ready for it. So I could synthesise what he did. And in the subsequent interviews that I've done with them, they were amazing. But what was interesting, it wasn't till I transcribed them and went back and studied them that I realised there was more brilliant than I ever imagined. And so he individually want to get the influence because he came on to my podcast. I don't think you'd ever been on a coach's podcast before. And I had been a conduit to help him to get to other people to kind of do that stuff. And so he's had a huge influence on me and my coaching, and really the centrepiece of anything I do because again, I think his model for the first time we have an explanation and understanding of executive functioning that we can more precisely identify root cause and problem software.
Simon Currigan 24:26
Jeff, I've really enjoyed this very excited to have you on the podcast today. Thank you for joining us.
Jeff Copper 24:31
Thanks for the opportunity.
Simon Currigan 24:32
Wasn't that interesting? When you hear Jeff speak, it really does change the way that you think about ADHD and how to arrive at solutions to help kids with ADHD thrive in school.
And as before, if you want to find out more about Jeff and his online resources, I put links to his website in the episode description.
By the way, if you work with kids with challenging behaviour and you're not sure why they're acting that way, we've got a download that can help. It's called the SEN handbook and it's designed to help you to link behaviours that you've seen in the classroom with possible causes such as autism and ADHD.
The idea here isn't for teachers to make a diagnosis because we're not qualified to do that. But if we can link behaviours to possible causes quickly, it means we can get the right help and early intervention strategies in place.
The handbook is a completely free download, all you need to do is go over to our website, wwwbeaconschoolsupport.co.uk. Click on the free resources tab near the top and look for the SEN handbook near the top of the page. And we'll also put a direct link in the episode description.
Before we go, If you've enjoyed today's episode, remember to open your podcast app now and hit the subscribe button or follow as it's called now in Apple podcasts and your app will download each and every new episode as it's released, so you never miss a thing. And to celebrate Well, why not live the rest of the day, like a squirrel because they're bold, they're brash and they know what they want out of life so you better not get in their way. If a squirrel were Prime Minister, this land would already be covered in high speed rail links. nut production will be at an all time high. And we'd be constantly at war with surrounding countries because you know, Belgium looked at us funny or France spilt our pint these furry monsters live life at full throttle and without regret. Remember whatever you do, don't mess with squirrels. They'll 'squeek' you up.
Calm down, Simon. That's all we've got time for today. So we hope you have a great week and we look forward to seeing you next week on school behaviour secrets. Bye for now.
(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)