Guest author Rachel Z. Baumann, the newest member of the Peak team, is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist, Therapist, and Executive Functioning Coach who counsels people of all ages. Her clients include young teens and adults coping with anxiety and school/career decisions, children and teens struggling with executive functioning skills, and parents trying to help their children adjust to an ADHD diagnosis. Rachel is experienced in helping clients with anxiety, ADHD, depression, friendship challenges, learning differences, self-esteem, social skills, and relationship issues. She comes to Peak having worked with children from pre-K through grade 12 across suburban and urban settings, as well as with college-aged students and young adults. She has worked with diverse populations and is conversationally fluent in Spanish. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Bates College in Maine, Rachel worked in the mental health field for six years while earning her Master’s and Sixth Year Certificate in School Psychology at Fairfield University. While becoming a psychologist, Rachel also felt a pull to branch out of the schools in order to work with students and their families in a more personalized, individualized manner. She obtained her LPCA and has worked to help families manage Executive Functioning difficulties.
As an Executive Functioning Coach, Therapist, and School Psychologist, I believe that nothing is more important to parents than the well-being of their child. It can be difficult to navigate the many social, emotional, physical, and cognitive changes that children experience. As a psychologist, I conduct comprehensive psycho-educational evaluations and design programs to help your child improve a wide range of skills. I also provide parent consultation to help parents understand their child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and become more effective advocates for their child both in and out of school.
What is Executive Functioning?
The term comes from the neuroscience literature to describe the skills our brains use to execute tasks and solve problems effectively. By the time your child is a teenager, they will need to use these skills on a daily basis in order to fully cope with everyday tasks. Research demonstrates that most individuals have executive functioning skills that are strengths as well as executive functioning skills that are weaknesses. We ALL will need these skills and if your child does not know how to organize their assignments, this will inevitably affect them later in life. It does not mean that your child is any less intelligent than the child who can organize their assignments; it simply means that your child has not yet learned an effective system that works for them.
Executive functioning coaching consists of identifying these areas of weaknesses and challenges so that we are better able to implement interventions to manage your child’s difficulties. If you are still wondering about the specifics behind all of these brain-based skills, here is a condensed overview:
• Response Inhibition: the ability to think before you act. Is your child able to resist the urge to say something, or do they interrupt? Do they often act without thinking about the consequences?
• Working Memory: the ability to hold information in memory while performing complex tasks. Does your child have difficulty remembering where they put their belongings? Do they lose things like sports equipment, their lunch money, or their phone?
• Emotional Control: the ability to manage emotions to achieve goals, complete tasks, or control behavior. Does your child have difficulty regulating their emotions? Do they become easily frustrated when things don’t go their way?
• Flexibility: the ability to amend plans; adapting to changing conditions. Is your child able to adjust easily to a change in plans?
• Sustained attention: the ability to pay attention to a situation or task in spite of distractibility, fatigue, or boredom. Do you need to consistently remind your child to finish their homework, or can they manage on their own?
• Task initiation: the ability to begin projects in a timely manner and without unnecessary procrastination. Does your child have difficulty pulling themselves away from TikTok or FaceTiming with friends? Are they able to prioritize their work properly so they have time for both work and friends?
• Planning/prioritizing: the ability to create a plan to achieve your goals/complete a task. The ability to make decisions about what is important to concentrate on. Does your child know how to take the steps necessary to save money for something they really want? Do they know how to start and follow through on a project?
• Organization: the ability to set up and stick with systems to keep track of information or materials. Does your child know how to find all of their assignments on Google Drive? Are assignments organized or are they all over their computer? Does your child have a system of organizing what to bring to school and what they need in order to get through the day?
• Time management: the ability to estimate how much time you have, how to utilize it, and how to meet deadlines. Does your child turn their assignments in on time? Do they know how to estimate how much time it will take for them to get ready for soccer or drama practice? Do you find that you are always running to the car because they said they needed 5 minutes when they really needed 20 minutes to get ready?
• Goal-directed persistence: the ability to have a goal and to follow through to achieve it. Is your child able to set things aside that they would prefer to do in order to achieve their goals?
• Metacognition: thinking about thinking. The ability to stand back and to observe how you solve problems and how you reflect on your actions and thoughts. Does your child have the self-awareness to know how others are responding to their behavior, ideas, or actions? Are they good at accepting feedback from others?
What does EF Coaching look like?
You may be thinking that if your child has EF difficulties that they have ADHD. This is not always the case! We all have strengths and weaknesses in these areas. The good news is that all of this can be worked on and improved in order for your child to meet their academic goals and to live a more organized life. It is incredible to see the change that can occur when we are taught the skills that don’t come naturally to us. EF coaching has the ability to improve both the academic and social-emotional life of your child and your family.
My aim is to help your child individually in order to meet their needs. I start by talking with the parent/guardian in order to assess the problems from the parent’s perspective. Each session is tailored and individualized to your child’s unique needs. Because we all have deeply ingrained habits surrounding EF skills, this is not a quick fix. That being said, with full and open communication, I endeavor to meet your child where they are and to develop an individualized system that will allow them to flourish.