Elaine Taylor-Klaus, a master certified coach and co-founder of ImpactParents, discusses executive functioning, social-emotional regulation, behavior challenges, communicating with the school, and the the four phases of parenting as a way that parents can provide support while encouraging independence.
Check out ImpactParents’ free resources at: impactparents.com
Read the Transcript:
Lauren Clouser [00:00:06]:
Welcome to the LDA podcast. a series by the Learning Disabilities Association of America. Our podcast is dedicated to exploring topics of interest to educators, individuals with learning disabilities, parents and professionals to work towards our goal of creating a more equitable world. Hi, everyone. Welcome to the LDA podcast. I’m here today with Elaine Taylor Klaus. She is a master certified coach, writer, speaker, mother, and co-founder of Impact Parents, an organization that supports parents of complex kids. Elaine, thank you again for joining us on the podcast this time to talk about parenting, and welcome.
Elaine Taylor-Klaus [00:00:41]:
Really, thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here, always.
Lauren Clouser [00:00:46]:
We love having you back. So to start off, could you introduce yourself a little bit and tell us about your parenting journey?
Elaine Taylor-Klaus [00:00:52]:
Yeah, you know, it’s been an interesting journey. It continues to be. I am the mom of 3, what I like to call complex kids, who are now all young adults. And as an early mom in those first 10 years, it was a pretty traumatic experience as a parent. I had complex kids. I didn’t understand it. I was complex myself. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know that they had ADD or I had ADD or anxiety or learning disabilities or all that. And so, the long story short is that I went back to have myself evaluated in my early forties when I kinda looked at my husband and I said there’s no way he can be responsible for all of this neurology, and turns out I was diagnosed with with both learning and attention issues in my early forties.
And so, you know, my whole life made sense, and my kids were complicated. They were complicated to raise and complicated to educate, because the blend of neurodivergence was very different for each of them. And so my journey took me eventually to coaching, which gave me a whole different way of being with them and taught me how to communicate with them in a way that was really empowering for them and help them know themselves and learn to manage themselves, which is why I now do what I do because I realized that that it’s all about empowering these amazing young kids to become the amazing adults they have the capacity to be.
You know, I used to say to my kids all the time, you have an amazing brain, and you’re going to be an amazing adult, we just gotta help you get there.
Lauren Clouser [00:02:39]:
Well, and to build off of that, could you tell us about your work at Impact Parents?
Elaine Taylor-Klaus [00:02:45]:
Yes. So Impact Parents was originally Impact ADHD. And then in 2020, a few months into the pandemic, my book came out. I don’t remember whether it was the second or third book that came out, called the Essential Guide To Raising Complex Kids With ADHD, Anxiety, and More. And so we shifted, we expanded from Impact ADHD to Impact Parents because we wanted to really reflect the full range of parents that we’ve been supporting for, by that point, 10 years because it’s very rarely just about ADHD, just about dyslexia, or just about anxiety. You know, most of these kids come with what I like to call a complex neurological soup. And so we really need to understand all the different ingredients to that soup. And so Impact Parents was established to bring a coach approach to parenting complex kids.
There was a lot of support available for these kids, and there was very little around, this was back in 2010, 2011, very, very little available for parents. It’s hard for us to understand now. But at that time, there was almost nothing, and the focus was so much on kids, and nobody was talking about the role of the parent. And we know that the role of the parent is fundamental to the success of these kids and yet the parents were kind of left to talk to a therapist for 5 minutes at the end of a session. I mean, there was just not a lot of support.
So we discovered when we became coaches, my business partner, Diane Dempster and I met each other and both had a parallel experience, which was when we became coaches, we became better parents, and it wasn’t rocket science. We realized it was something we could teach to other parents. So the secret to what we do is we teach coaching skills to parents. Not to train them to become their kids’ coach, but for them to take what we like to say a coach-like approach to parenting. And we provide training and coaching and support and a combination of those 3 things is what seems to be the the magic, the secret sauce to really helping parents shift the dynamic to be the parent their kids need them to be and a way to empower and foster a better relationship and better communication which is really what sets the foundation of place to help these kids take ownership of themselves and without shame and without guilt and without embarrassment, but to really begin to advocate for themselves in a powerful way.
Lauren Clouser [00:05:16]:
Yeah. That’s so key. Yeah. Well, and I like how you said ‘the soup’ as well. There’s often a lot of different things going on rather than just one thing like ADHD. And one of those ingredients that we get a lot of questions about is executive functioning skills. So could you let us know some common strategies that parents can use that can help with the executive functioning skills, and could you let people know what executive functions are?
Elaine Taylor-Klaus [00:05:38]:
I was going to say let’s start by just kind of explaining. Let’s back it up. So executive function kind of tends to be what’s underlying all of these different issues we’re talking about. Now with the exception maybe of some of the learning disabilities that are more specific, like dyslexia, certain language processing, they may not have an executive function underpinning, although they may. Because working memory is an executive function. Executive function is that part of our brain, the mature, developed part of our brain that helps us think, feel, and act. It’s when I get from ‘I think I should do this’ to thinking through how to do it and then actually doing that. All of it relies on executive function. And then emotion lands in there, and doing lands in there, and thinking and processing, it’s all executive functions.
So when our executive function part of our brain is either challenged or delayed in any way, it impacts everything in our lives. It impacts our thinking, our school, our relationships, our social dynamics, our everything. And so what we’ve learned in the last 10, 20 years is that when we begin to really focus on understanding executive function, we can break down where our kids are struggling and help them much more effectively because we are able to develop solutions and strategies that address the specific challenge they’re facing. So it’s not just trouble with reading or trouble with managing my emotions, but now we can begin to break down and say, well, maybe the trouble with reading is because I’m having a hard time with working memory and holding information in my head, or there’s a way to externalize it, or maybe my eyes aren’t processing properly. So there’s a way to color code it, or if it’s emotional dysregulation, it’s like maybe I’m not feeling trusted or I’m not feeling safe or, like, the more specific and granular we can be the more effective we can be at problem solving.
And our goal here is to stop problem solving for our kids and to start enrolling them and inviting them to the process of problem solving for themselves. We want to help them understand what their strengths are and what their challenges are without shame, you know, so that we can help them begin to figure out what their best solutions are. The amazing thing about these kids is they know better than we do if we give them a chance. If we ask them, if we check-in with them and guide them, they know what works for them.
Lauren Clouser [00:08:23]:
Definitely. We also get a lot of questions about homework and, you know, we want to let kids, like you just said, solve their own problems. Do you have any recommendations for how parents can help their children with homework without intervening too much? Is there a good balance? What’s some of your advice for that?
Elaine Taylor-Klaus [00:08:43]:
So let’s go back. We want to help them solve their own problems, but we don’t want to do that. We want to set them up for success in solving their problems. Let me say it differently. We teach a four step thing that’s called the 4 phases parenting. And the notion is that that as parents or this is also applicable for educators, or a therapist, anybody working with young people, kids of any age. So we start off as directors, because they’re little and they need us to direct them and tell them what to do and help them find their motivation to do it. And our goal over time is to shift out of director mode. And then the next 3 phases are we go from director to collaborator to supporter to champion. Those are the roles that we as the adults play in fostering independence in our kids.
Now it’s not a linear process with our kids. Though, they’re going to be ready for us to be directors in some areas of their lives and supporters and others. You have a kid who’s really good at, let’s say, soccer, they may be able to manage all of their stuff getting ready to practice, but still need us to be collaborators when it comes to getting started on homework. We’re going to come back to homework. I promise. So the best metaphor I’ve got for this, we used to talk about in terms of transferring the baton when you’re in a relay.
What I’ve shifted to, I really love this one, is if you’ve ever taught or seen somebody get on a horse and learn to ride a horse, when you put a kid on a horse, you start them off at a ring where you’re holding the reins. They’re just sitting on the horse. Right? That’s director mode. We’re holding the reins and guiding them around the ring. They were just getting them comfortable. And then we hand them the reins, but we’re still holding the bit. Right? So we’re still guiding the horse around, but now they’re holding the reins. They’re learning to move them around. They’re trying to figure out how to move the horse’s head. They’re practicing. We’re in collaboration mode. Now we’re both leading the horse. We’re practicing it together.
And then at some point, we let go of the horse. We move to the side ring, and we let them start walking that horse around the ring themselves. They’re guiding the head. They’re communicating to the horse. Now they’re in ownership. They’re in the lead, and we move into this support role. We’re still close. We’re still there. If they ask questions, we’re like, well, you might try this. We’re guiding. And then at some point, we let them go out on a trail. And that’s what we call champion mode, they’re now leading, they’re in charge, they know we’re there if they need help. Maybe we’re at the front of the row or maybe we’re at the back. They know that we’re available and they can ask us, but they’re really in charge of themselves.
And as parents and adults in the lives of complex kids, we want to remember that our kids want to get to autonomy and agency and independence. And so we want to provide the least amount of direction and control that’s possible to set them up for success so that they begin to take ownership, but not so little that they feel lost and they feel alone and they feel like they don’t know what to do. And what happens with executive function with a lot of kids is that because often our kids are delayed, they may not have been available to learn the skill when it was taught to their same age peers. So we may have to catch them up or may we may have to teach the skill differently because they weren’t able to process it in the way that their peers were.
So part of setting them up for success is understanding these underlying executive function skills and making sure that not only they have the ownership to step out on their own and start guiding that horse, but that they have the skills they need to do so. And what happens with executive function is oftentimes, our kids want to be doing it all on their own, but they don’t yet quite have the skills to do that. So our job is to stay in connection with them and communication with them enough that they are able to kind of learn those skills and work with us to cultivate those skills without pushing us away.
And, you know, if we’re sticking with these 4 phases for a minute, what often happens particularly with preteens and teens and older kids is that parents will be in director mode. And when we have complex kids, we often get stuck there because our kids have executive function challenges. We’re afraid they’re going to not be successful. We’re afraid they’re not going to get it done. We have our own perfection issues. There’s a lot of reasons we do this. We stay in control mode way too long. And then when they hit, like, 10, 12, 14, or older, they start resisting that. They’re developmentally ready to start doing more on their own. And if we’re still in director mode and they’re ready for something else, they’re not going to say, can we collaborate on this? They’re going to say ‘back off, mom and dad. I’ve got this. Stay out of it, teach. I’ve got it,’ and they’re going to ask us, expect us, to jump all the way to phase 4 to that empower role, that champion role. But they’re not ready for it.
So our job as the adults in their lives, you can’t see me, but I’ve got my hands kind of going back and forth. The 4 phases, there’s one on one side, 4 on the other, and we’re trying to stay between the 2 and 3: collaboration and support, collaboration support, back and forth, back and forth. We want to keep collaborating with them to take agency and ownership and buy in and then supporting them while they practice and problem solve and figure out for themselves. So that was a really long answer to get back to your question about homework. Right?
So the answer to homework is and it’s going to be very different depending on the age of the kid, obviously. But think about what I was just saying. We start off directing them. When it comes to homework, If they don’t have some sense of agency and buy in, we’re going to be directing them forever. Until they just stop doing it or they give up or they stop trying or they push back or all these things that happen very typically with complex kids because they don’t see their own capacity. And I remember one of my kids said to me once, don’t you see mom if I haven’t done it, I haven’t done it wrong. So they’ve got their own perfectionism and their own challenges coming into play here.
So when it comes to homework, we want to begin to shift out of director mode and into collaboration mode as early as we can, and you can do this with really little kids. And instead of what do ‘we’ have for homework today, right, where you’ve got to do this, it becomes you asking questions like, what do ‘you’ have for homework tonight? What’s your expectation, beginning to enroll them and seeing it as theirs, step out of that trap of saying, I need you to. I need you to get your homework done. That’s about me, and we want them to see their homework as something they’re doing as part of their education. What do you want to get done tonight? What is your teacher asking from you? What are you and your friends doing tonight? So that when we shift to them, they start to see it as theirs. That’s that collaboration piece. And probably the number one thing we can do as parents when it comes to homework is to stop making it be about us and to start making it helping it be about them so that they can begin to own it without all of that stuff around it that makes it become this trigger thing.
Eventually, they’ll get to a point where they’re like, back off mama. I gotta get my homework done. You’ll get there. That’s when we move into a support role, but we want to start by really stepping into as much collaboration as possible. And the thing we do in collaboration mode is ask as many questions as we can. What have you got for homework tonight? What’s on your agenda? They’re like, I don’t know. It’s like, well, instead of, why don’t you call your friend to find out, you might ask a question. What do you think you can do to find out?
The more we ask questions, the more we bring them into ownership, and we bring them into their process of problem solving. And our goal really with these kids is to bring them through the process of problem solving again and again and again and again and again, right, all the time, not from a stress place, but from a practice place. We want them to practice again and again.
Lauren Clouser [00:17:24]:
I love that answer.
Elaine Taylor-Klaus [00:17:26]:
It was a long answer to it. Just a question, but homework. — a lot of stuff. — homework is not simple. And so here’s the other thing that comes up, right, is that homework is not one thing. Homework is a million pieces. And so from an executive function perspective, we want to break it down. When we say getting our kid to do homework, that’s kinda like saying getting our kid out the door in the morning. Think about it. There are 20 things from the pillow to the bus stop. So we want to break it down and look at where the obstacle is, is the obstacle getting started, knowing what the homework is in the first place, getting started, focusing, keeping your focus. Like, are you doing a brain break after school and getting some protein in before you start homework? Do they have enough time really to do their homework? Do they know what it is? I cannot tell you how many times my kids did the wrong homework assignment and how stressful that is for them and how stressful that is for us. Is it completing the homework? Is it turning it in?
So there are so many pieces that we can break it down to say when we’re talking about homework, We have to take aim really specifically and know what the challenges we’re trying to address. And our job as parents, I keep saying that, but here’s another job we have as parents is to scaffold it so that we’re taking aim with them on one area we’re trying to foster their independence. Maybe they’re working on getting started or staying focused or completing it. We’re going to scaffold all those other steps I meant and keep supporting them and helping them get that done so that they can take ownership in that one area and be successful because when they’re successful, that breeds more success.
And the solutions, all of their solutions are in their successes. So we really want to foster some wins and help them see that they have the capacity to get better at…let’s call it just completing it. What does it take for you to get it done? That last 10%, 20% Oh my gosh. That could be so stressful. What does it take? How are you going to be successful with that? because if they hit that metric, they know they’ve got the capacity to learn and improve.
Lauren Clouser [00:19:30]:
Definitely. Well, and to switch gears just a little bit into social emotional regulation. What should parents know about the link between learning disabilities and ADHD and some behavioral challenges and social emotional regulation?
Elaine Taylor-Klaus [00:19:49]:
What we need to understand is that it’s all connected. And that up until about 10, 15 years ago, didn’t really understand that emotional regulation was a part of executive function. We thought it was completely a different part of the brain, the limbic system. And while there is an executive function aspect to it, and there’s…I don’t want to get too down the rabbit hole because it’s complicated and the brain is an interesting, fascinating place. But the short short version of it is that if where our brains aren’t emotionally regulated, our nervous system is taxed, if our limbic system gets involved or our primitive brain gets involved, we’re starting to get triggered or we’re full on triggered, then we’re no longer available for learning. Our frontal lobe, the executive part of our brain that actually learns, is not available to learn if it’s triggered in any way.
And so it’s interesting. We just did a 3 day live tel-a-summit called the ADHD Parents Palooza, this is being recorded in early August of 2023, and we did a 3 day palooza, and we had all these amazing speakers. There were 25 guests. It was just fabulous. And the most consistent theme throughout all of these guests, whether they were talking about school or organization or social skills or emotional, any of it, was connection. It was the importance of connecting and building trust and building relationships. And we do that with these kids when we slow down to speed up. Right? When we stay present and be in relationship with them, and help notice when they’re starting to get upset or triggered. And then we help them identify those triggers, regulate their nervous system, and learn tools and strategies to calm themselves down.
And when we take on, are you getting the homework done, but when you get upset and you want to rip up the paper, are you stopping and using your strategies? Are you taking your deep breaths and taking a brain break? What are you doing to calm yourself down again so that you’re available to do the work, that you’re available to learning. We somehow want to believe that their emotional regulation is disconnected. And as parents that I know, I’m guilty of this, we used to always try to push him through, I know you’re upset, but if you can just spend 10 more, if you can just do this more, well, the truth is once they’re upset, they can’t do those 3 more problems. Or it’s going to take him 3 hours to do what should take him 10 minutes.
So we really want to pause and acknowledge and honor what’s going on in their brain because when the brain is hijacked, we call it a mental hijack, you can’t just get the brain back online. You have to recognize that it’s happening. You have to reclaim your brain. There are a lot of ways you can do that, but if we don’t teach our kids to reclaim their brain, and whether it’s through wall push ups, or wheelbarrows around the house, or we used to keep a pull-up bar in our kitchen, whatever it is, protein snacks, going outdoors, put your feet in the grass, if we don’t teach our kids to reclaim their brain, we’re sending a false message that somehow you can just push through this. And if you just try harder, you can do this. Because this is not about trying harder when your brain is offline. Then you gotta get it back online. You gotta reboot. And sometimes you have to wait a few minutes for that computer to reboot. And it’s very much the same with our brain. We’ve got to slow down to speed up and recognize that emotional dysregulation, or to say it differently, emotional regulation is foundational to social relationships, to any family dynamic relationships and to being available to do any kind of school work.
Lauren Clouser [00:23:58]:
And when kids are having some challenging behaviors or they’re being triggered, and ways that are likely related to their learning disabilities, what are some good ways that parents can react?
Elaine Taylor-Klaus [00:24:10]:
Oh, so many things come to me from that. So one of my kids, my middle kid, just started medical school. And this is a kid who has ADHD anxiety, and dyslexia from early, early on, diagnosed very early on. So, you know, that’s the reminder that these kids can be seriously successful and be really, really bright, and it can be a hard journey. And I remember with her in particular, the beauty of the dyslexia, interestingly enough, was because with dyslexia, we were able to get her to get it remediated, and she learned strategies. She learned that strategies worked. And so she was willing and more receptive to using other strategies.
And so I remember one time in particular, she’s maybe in middle school, and she was freaking out about, one of her biggest challenges was choosing a topic. She has a lot of decision fatigue, and she really struggled with that. And I remember sitting on the stairs next to her as she’s freaking out and I sat down next to her, and I just started by saying, are you aware that you’re really upset right now, that you’re really stressed out by this? Just like slowing down and saying ‘are you aware that this is actually your anxiety talking right now, that this isn’t you. This is your anxiety.’ And it kind of threw her off a little bit and got her attention enough to be able to to slow it down, and we had, by this point, we had some strategies in place.
We had a brainstorm, not when they’re triggered, but at a different time, what are some strategies you might use when you’re upset and you’re triggered? First you gotta understand what it is that triggers you. For her, we knew that writing could trigger her. And so for many years, I was her scribe, when she would come home and tell me what her homework was, and I would write it down for her. And then I would let her tell me where on the page she would want me to write it. So it was her structure, it was her outline. I was just doing the actual writing. And then over time, she would take that on. So there’s a piece about identifying where the upsets are, what are the trigger points. So for a kid with dyslexia, for example, or with dysgraphia, sometimes if you can take the motor coordination piece out of it while they’re thinking, then she can do the thinking part, and I can do the writing part, for example. And so as you break it down, you say, ok, what tends to get you upset or triggered, and let’s problem solve around that. So the first step is understanding what the triggers are. And then you really want to look at, okay, what are some strategies you might use to bring yourself back when you’re triggered.
And so, in one of my books, I call it a calming… and it’s not necessarily a box, it’s just a list of strategies. So maybe it’s building up blocks and knocking them down. I had one kid who used to love to take a baseball bat to the recycling boxes and break down the recycling with a baseball bat to get that energy and that aggression out. As I said, wall push ups, drinking water, protein snacks. I mean, there are a million techniques you can come up with. You want to try to avoid the ‘I’ll just get on social media or tiktok for the next 2 hours.’ We’re looking at constructive, strategies for management, but you may want to help your kid brainstorm a nice healthy list of of several strategies that they can choose from so that when they are starting to get triggered, you’re able to say are you noticing you’re getting triggered, what strategy would you like to use? What strategy would you like to try? What do you want to try first?
I remember one point when I was first learning to do this, I hadn’t quite gotten this. So I was saying to my kids just take 3 deep breaths. And then I would tell him what to do instead of helping him cultivate what his best strategy was. And then so he would sit there when he goes, (three rapid breaths) okay, I’m calm now. Well, obviously he wasn’t calm now because it wasn’t his strategy. It was mine. And so I had to really work with him to help him figure out what really does calm you down. I had one kid who would, we had a climbing tree in the front of the house, and they would climb the tree, or I’m going to do my reading first because I can do that in the tree. And then I’m going to do my math. So I’m going to get some success.
One kid who liked to read the comics before he started. Just knowing what gets you into that chill place and what can bring you back to the chill place. So really guiding our kids to understand the value of reclaiming your brain and knowing what strategies they’re going to try to use to reclaim your brain is 90% of it, really. And holding them accountable to using the strategy instead of, are you calm or not? Because nobody in the history of the world has ever calmed down by telling them to calm down. Right? It’s just not going to happen. So what we want to say is, invite them to: it seems like you’re getting upset. This would be a good time to use some strategies, hone down what strategy do you want to use? And then you could come back later and say, hey, I want you to go give yourself two points. You used that strategy today, and you or you tried to use that strategy. And I know it was really frustrating. It didn’t work this time. Are you willing to try it again?
Lauren Clouser [00:29:44]:
So when you’re communicating with your child’s school or their teacher, sometimes that can be a little difficult. There can be a lot of emotions involved. But do you have any recommendations on how you can best communicate with the school so you can advocate for what your child needs?
Elaine Taylor-Klaus [00:30:01]:
First of all, all of you who are listening take the deep breath because there’s nothing like that email at the end of the day that has you just kind of bracing yourself for whatever is coming. I’ve so been there, and it’s so exhausting. We have a lot of stuff on the website Impact Parents. We’ve been publishing content now for a dozen years, original content every week. And so there’s a lot of pieces by teachers and parents and coaches, strategies around this. So I would invite people…There’s a couple of beautiful articles by Chris Dendy, the late Chris Dendy who was an icon in this realm, so I would invite people to look there for some guidance on that. So, yeah, there’s a great article by Chris Dendy specifically on that topic. The thing for us to remember is that we want to be on the same team with our teachers. So let me step back.
Sadly, the way the systems work, oftentimes our teachers do not have as strong an education around the complex issues we’re dealing with as we think that they do and we think that they should. And that is not their fault. They are working in a very complex, and some of us might argue, broken system. They’re there because they care. They want to do their best, and they are not always being set up for success. The expectations placed on teachers is outrageous, and they often don’t have the education. So I remember going in there thinking, well, the teacher must understand dyslexia and ADHD. And they didn’t. Until I got my kid into a special program, they did not. And so we do have to become experts on things we didn’t know we had to be experts in, and we do have to be our teacher’s educators sometimes. We want to do that from a place of invitation, not from a place of, insistence. So it’s not I need you to read about this to know my kid to be a better teacher to my kid, but it’s: I’ve been reading about this, and I think it might be really helpful, it helped me understand my kid better. Would you be open to it? Would it be okay if I bring you some materials?
We’ve had parents buy their teachers access to Sanity School for Teachers before. But you don’t want to do it from a blaming place that suggests and judges, you don’t know this, but that comes from a place of: you must have so much on your plate and so many kids, and I know this is so hard for you. I’d love to be able to support you, really. What’s the best way? And maybe it’s asking the teachers, I know that we might be talking more than you do with other parents in this school year. Do you prefer text? Do you prefer email? Do you prefer the beginning of the day, end of the day? Like, if you start with some acknowledgement and compassion of their experience and what they’re going through.
They’re real people, just like you. Most of them are moms, you know, or parents, just like us. We have a tool that we teach in Sanity School called ACE: acknowledgement plus compassion. If we start the conversation by really acknowledging what their experience is with compassion. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be trying to navigate life post-COVID. I really honor what you’re doing as a teacher. And really meet them where they are as humans before we start explaining it or we’re exploring options or asking for what we want. You’re going to get so much more with honey. You want to enroll them in being on your team, acknowledge that they want to help your kid and invite them to offer to support them and help them in that process. Instead of that tendency to come in guns blazing and blame them for everything that’s going on.
Now that’s not to say that you don’t sometimes run into an old school teacher from a different time of the world who just believes our kids should just try harder. And sometimes life is about learning to navigate challenges. Our kids are likely to end up with bosses that aren’t so supportive at some point too. So maybe that’s the challenge of this particular school year or this particular semester is learning how to navigate this one teacher who is just never, bless her heart, never going to understand. That may happen. There is an article on the site called ‘Bless her heart. She just doesn’t understand.’ Not about a teacher, about a family member, but you’re going to run into that.
Overall, these teachers are there because they care and they want to learn. And if they don’t understand they tend to be very open to learning if we can invite them to learn in a way that is nonjudgmental and that is as easy as possible for them and can really help them. You know, I mentioned we have a program called Sanity School for Teachers, and we have that program because we had so many parents who had taken Sanity School as our behavior training program for parents. We had so many parents who had taken it who were also teachers who came back to us and said, oh my god, this is transforming my classroom. Can you help me? And so they helped us create a version for teachers so that teachers can learn to take a coach-like approach in their classroom and really meet kids where they are, lighten the load for the kids by really understanding what’s happening with this underlying neurodivergence and how kids are reacting and responding to it in in that environment. So our job is to cultivate the team and to really realize these teachers are trying to be on our team.
Lauren Clouser [00:36:04]:
Yeah. That’s such great advice and so important to keep in mind.
Elaine Taylor-Klaus [00:36:11]:
It’s hard because we get to be mama bears and we get to try to defend our kids and, you know, sometimes particularly as they get older because a lot of times in traditional school environments as kids get older, particularly in high school years, they there’s this assumption that these kids should be able to do this on their own. And that’s true for neurotypical kids, but for neurodivergent kids, they are developmentally delayed, and they’re typically 3 to 5 years behind their same age peers in some parts of their development. So they may need more scaffolding for longer than their peers because their brains aren’t quite ready to function as independently as some of their same age peers. And teachers have a hard time understanding that sometimes. It’s definitely something that we have to invite them to understand.
Lauren Clouser [00:37:02]:
Definitely. So, Elaine, you can personally speak to this. So I was going to ask what recommendations do you have for parents who have a learning disability themselves. Sometimes there’s sort of a panic of how can I help them if I have the same thing?
Elaine Taylor-Klaus [00:37:17]:
Yeah. So often we have parents, and just this week in the Palooza, the parents who will say, I can’t do this if I can’t do it for myself. And what I would say is if you know you’ve got these issues too as you start to manage your own issues, you become the best model in the world for your kids. And I don’t care whether your kid is 6, 12, 16, 20, or 26, or older. When you start navigating yourself better, when you start acknowledging, I have struggles with this area. I could use some help. I’m going to ask for some help without blame or shame or guilt. I’m not going to be embarrassed that I’m going to ask for help. I’m going to ask for help because I need it. There’s nothing better you can do to model for your kids.
And when you know you’ve got issues, whether it’s attention issues or learning issues, and you begin to verbalize how you’re managing it and ask for help with it and ask your kids for help, it neutralizes the stigma around asking for help. There’s so much stigma around asking for help. And when you normalize that for your kids, they begin the biggest issue parents face, I think, as our kids get older, is we get frustrated, why won’t they take the help I’m offering? Or why won’t they ask for help? Or that I’m offering the help, why won’t they use it? And so there’s two pieces of it. It’s asking for help, and then it’s accepting help. And they’re not going to accept help if they feel shame around it, if they feel like they shouldn’t feel like there’s something wrong with it. They need us to normalize it, but not from a lecturing way, which we don’t need to tell them. You should accept help. It would be good for you.
We need to model it by saying, hey. I was on the phone with my coach today, and I learned this new thing where I was just in this new cool support group, or I joined this parenting class and I’m learning about…whatever it is, I have a new way, I realized that if I hold the bookmark under the line, it makes reading easier for me. If you start verbalizing your management and your success, if you stop verbalizing beating yourself up, those tendencies we have to say, I’m such an idiot. I can’t believe I did that. There I am again. If we stop doing that, and we start modeling. Wow. That was a mistake. I gotta note that and try to avoid that one next time. Or, oh, man, I turned left today, and I wish I had turned right. And it had all of these implications. Next time, I really have to slow down and pay attention to where I think about where I’m going before I start driving the car, whatever your example is.
If you can do it without beating yourself up, that’s the key, and ask for the help you need. So if you’re struggling with learning issues, now a lot of us when we have learning disabilities as adults, there’s not a lot of remediation out there for us. There’s some, but not a lot. And so mostly what happens is we learn to accommodate. We learn to manage our lives. I I believe in playing to your strengths and outsource your challenges. So I learned that I’m going to do better if I can listen to a podcast than if I have to read something, or I’m going to do even better if I have a conversation with someone. My daughter likes to listen and read at the same time. So knowing what works for you.
One of the conversations in palooza, it was such a good palooza this year, Alan Brown was talking about embrace the pace. Like, accept whatever your challenges or your disability is or whatever however you want to language it, and accept it. Be with it. It’s okay. It may be the truth is that I’m a really slow reader. That’s okay. It could be with that, and I can acknowledge that without beating myself up for it. And so as parents, our biggest opportunity is to cultivate that challenge. We call it, in coaching, failing forward. If I can I can fail forward and say, okay what do I have to learn from this? What’s the opportunity in this instead of only seeing it as a deficit?
Kids don’t want us to be perfect. In fact, kids hate it when we’re perfect. And twenty something year old kids, there’s nothing they like better for us to say, I messed up on that. I mean, it’s like music to their ears, teenagers too, because they don’t want us to be perfect. When we position ourselves as if we’re supposed to know everything, it makes them feel really uncomfortable. Like, am I supposed to get there? And I’m afraid I’m never going to get there. And because none of us are perfect, and we’re perfectly imperfect and we’re human. And so when we give ourselves permission to be human, we give our kids permission to be human.
And the way that people learn is to learn through mistakes. And if they feel like they’re not allowed to make mistakes, only allowed to do it perfectly, then they begin to become resistant to learning at all. I was talking to my coach today, and I said, you know, when I was a kid growing up, I didn’t know I had learning and attention issues. I just knew that I was going to do anything I could to avoid making mistakes. And so I majored in something I hated. I did all kinds of things because I wasn’t going to do anything I didn’t think I could do well. And so I missed a lot of opportunities in my life. I probably should have been a psychologist. I’m now really glad that I wasn’t because I love coaching so much better, and I clearly found my calling. But had I not avoided an entire thing because I didn’t know how to take tests, I might have gone a different direction in my life.
And so we really want to help our kids see that we’re all a work in progress and invite them to be okay with that. And in fact, to see the gift of being different and the gift of being uniquely ourselves and to get curious about what it is that makes us who we are and what our strengths are and what our challenges are.
Lauren Clouser [00:43:52]:
Absolutely. Well, Elaine, thank you so much for this conversation. You’re just a wealth of information. I’m sure we could have kept talking for hours.
Elaine Taylor-Klaus [00:44:02]:
Thank you. Thank you for having me. Can I say one more thing before we wrap, Lauren? What I want to invite our listeners to really consider is that our role as the adults in the lives of complex kids is to help them see themselves without shame and to help them see their full capacity and to help them see that they may not see it, and that’s okay too. Because they’re struggling, and it’s harder for them than it is for their typical peers. And so we don’t want to excuse that, but we do want to help them see that we see that, and we know that just the effort of getting up or going to school or trying to pick up your pencil and do a paper or whatever. Just the effort for a lot of our kids is a lot.
And so, you know, the work that I do is all about taking a coach approach. It’s about meeting them where they are, wherever they are, and helping to raise the bar from there. But that means taking the time to understand them, to understand their neurodivergence, to help them understand themselves and gently invite them to grow. And the word invitations come up a lot today. We want to ask their permission to guide them instead of assuming that we have permission because we’re the authority. We want to foster their sense of agency and control their sense of ownership, and we want to invite them to take ownership of their life a little bit by a little bit and let them know we see that that may be scary for them and that’s okay. We’re going to support them, we see what they’re capable of. And these kids, when somebody believes in them, that’s what makes the biggest difference in the world for them to begin to believe in themselves.
So I invite you all to consider the coach approach, we have a podcast parenting with Impact Podcasts, and I hope you all your listeners, since you’re listening here, will join us listening there as well and really think about taking the information, because you have such amazing information on this podcast and in this organization, you know, I’m a huge fan of LDA. And it’s really important that we as adults in these kids’ lives remember that information is not enough. Our job is to integrate that information and learn how to implement it in real life. It’s not enough to know what to do. You gotta figure out how to do it. That’s what we do at Impact Parents, is really to help you figure out how, in community with support without judgment. And to all of you listening, that’s really what I hope you leave with is knowing that the information that I’ve shared today is important.
And it’s not nearly as important as you pausing, taking a breath, letting it soak in, integrating it, and beginning to think about how do I want to implement this? So my question to you would be, what’s one gem you’re taking away from today? What’s one insight that you’ve taken away from this conversation? Because when you really let yourself think about, okay, what’s my insight? Maybe it’s to invitation, or maybe it’s to be more gentle with myself and kinder to myself. Whatever your one insight is that you’re taking from this conversation, that’s the insight that will help you begin to integrate and implement and use this in your life.
Lauren Clouser [00:47:46]:
Yeah. That’s such a good point. I’m so glad you brought that up. Elaine, thank you again for having this conversation and for taking the time to share your wisdom with us.
Elaine Taylor-Klaus [00:47:53]:
I appreciate the invitation. I’m always happy to come back and thanks for having me. And to those of you listening, Thanks for what you’re doing for yourself and for your kids. It makes a difference.
Lauren Clouser [00:48:12]:
Thank you for listening to the LDA podcast. To learn more about LDA and to get valuable resources and support, visit ldaamerica.org.