Meet Our Members: Meet Jennifer Strong!

Tell us about yourself!

I’m Jennifer Strong, born and raised in a quaint Alaskan fishing village. Despite my Alaskan roots, my parents originally came from California. My upbringing was deeply rooted in a family of medical professionals, offering me a firsthand glimpse into the world of caregiving. Witnessing my father’s exceptional dedication to serving others left a lasting impression.

My academic journey began at the University of the Pacific, where I laid the foundation for my future pursuits. Currently, I am actively pursuing a Ph.D. in Psychology, specializing in Public Policy and Law, with a deep commitment to advancing the field of School Psychology. Today, I am the proud owner of Cognitive Diagnostic Associates. Our primary focus is conducting psychoeducational assessments for students and offering unwavering support to families navigating the complexities of the IEP process.

The motivation behind starting this business stemmed from a profound need within our educational system. Additionally, my own children faced challenges within the public schools, underscoring the need for more comprehensive support. We are genuinely excited to make a difference and extend our assistance to communities in need. Furthermore, we take immense pride in our membership with the Learning Disabilities Association of America.

What’s a fun fact about you?

One fascinating aspect of my life relates to my hometown, Seldovia, Alaska, a quaint village nestled amidst the wilderness with a mere 300 residents. In our remote corner of the world, we had a distinct feature: nine payphones scattered across town. Seldovia’s isolation meant that reaching our community required either a flight or a boat journey, making our mode of communication truly unique.

During my carefree days playing outside with friends, there were moments when I needed my father to pick me up. To conserve our precious dimes, we devised an ingenious Morse code-like system for communication by pressing the payphone buttons. You see, my father couldn’t hear me until a dime was inserted. A single click conveyed “no,” while two clicks meant “yes.” My dad would diligently work his way through all nine payphones, systematically asking, “Are you at the airport? Are you at the post office? Are you at the city dock?” until he pinpointed my location. Once I signaled “yes,” he’d swiftly come to collect me.

This unique childhood experience nurtured my capacity to think creatively, akin to what School Psychologists term “Fluid reasoning abilities.” It instilled in me the ability to adapt and critically assess situations. Now, it’s time to “payphone” it forward and give back to the community that saved me countless dimes. I eagerly look forward to supporting not only my local community, including Learning Disabilities Association of America but also the cherished Alaskan community of my youth, a place I am incredibly proud to call home.

Why did you become a member of LDA?

I joined LDA with the goal of fostering a sense of community and raising awareness about special education, learning disabilities, and the vital support available to those in need. Through our platform on the website, we aim to unite people and highlight the diverse array of resources within the realm of special education. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to build a supportive community and connect families with this incredible organization.

Our company’s core mission revolves around this commitment, firmly believing that every individual deserves equitable support and access to the resources they require.

Meet our Members: Meet Mitch Beres!

Meet our Members, Meet Mitch Beres

Tell us about yourself!

I am a retired business executive and am currently the President of the Learning Disabilities Association of Virginia. I went to college at SUNY Cortland NY and received my Masters from the NY Institute of Technology. I am married and have three children.  The younger two have learning disabilities. Thus, my experience and any expertise are that of a parent.

Why did you become an LDA Member?

When my two younger children were in grammar school, we started to notice certain difficulties in learning. The school provided a little insight but no real answers. My wife, who studied journalism, is an avid researcher. There really is not anything she will not investigate. In her endeavors she learned about and joined LDA and began to utilize them for knowledge, ideas, recommendations and essentially how to manage our way through this process. 

LDA provided an immense amount of information that we utilized.  My wife’s efforts, along with LDA’s information helped to set the course we would follow, leaving no stone unturned. As a result, the two younger children were able to graduate from Hofstra University. As a result, in a way of giving back, I am now a volunteer and President of LDA of Virginia.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I love to cook.  I first learned to do basic cooking as a teenager.  My mother worked and she would have us start dinner as she came home from work. This developed into doing the cooking for my roommates in junior and senior year in college. Overtime I developed a joy for cooking and loved trying new and different dishes. This has grown into trying all different national cuisines. My wife is the perfect partner. As noted above, she is an avid researcher and would even read a cookbook. She finds many different opportunities across the spectrum; we discuss it and then I give it a whirl. We love the variety and as luck would have it our children have also developed quite the palate.

Meet our Members: Meet Dr. Lisa Rutner!

Tell us about yourself!

I earned my bachelor’s degree in Educational Studies in 2009, which was 30 years after I graduated from high school. I earned my master’s degree in 2013 in Special Education and my Ed.D. in 2018, also in Special Education. The reason why I share this is because I want others to know it is never too late to follow your dreams. 

What’s a fun fact about you?

The best vacation I ever took was a three-week motorcycle trip from Florida to Nova Scotia. Yes, I owned a motorcycle and drove it the entire trip. We had no hotel reservations but a destination of Nova Scotia. Having no set plans and the open roads provided us with the best way to travel. We entered Canada through upstate NY. We rode into Ontario, Montreal, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. We rode on ferries and through a lot of mountains.

Why did you become a member of LDA?

As a child, I struggled with undiagnosed learning disabilities (that still haunt me today). At the time, there were little to no resources, and my parents were told that there was nothing wrong with me, that I was just lazy. At the time, nobody discovered my processing deficits and lack of decoding knowledge, which made reading extremely challenging. Since returning to college and earning my degrees, I learned that I do have a learning disability. I have learned how to overcompensate for my learning disabilities. It is my desire to help others learn how to overcome their learning disabilities and reach their full potential.

Meet our Members: Meet Keitha Osborne!

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Keitha Ava Marie Osborne. I am a passionate and committed educator with over 30 years of experience in the educational system. I have a keen interest in all aspects of students’ development with a particular focus on children with special needs and the use of technological resources that support the inclusion of all students. My aim is positively contribute to the training and empowerment of not just future educators, but also parents and other stakeholders to be able to embrace, engage in and foster inclusion at all levels for students with varied abilities.

I am currently serving as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Special Education at The Mico University College. I have worked in the USA as a media specialist, reading coach, and family and consumer teacher. It was while teaching in the USA my interest in special education began, and I attended Fayetteville State University where I did some courses at the master’s level in Special Education K-12 (Specific Learning Disabilities). 

I hold an MSc in  Educational Media and an Ed.D in Special Education from Nova Southeastern University, Davie, Florida. I also have a Dip. Ed in Technical Teacher Education and a B.Ed in Home Economics from the University of Technology, Jamaica.

I have co-authored a book chapter entitled, Educators Coming Together to Empower Learners, Families, and Teachers in Developing Culturally Responsive/Sustaining Postsecondary Transition Plans During COVID-19. 

What’s a fun fact about you?

I enjoy traveling and shopping. I am a bargain and coupon shopper. I enjoy smiling and listening to the rain.

Why did you become a member of LDA?

I have been a LDA member for three main reasons:

I was diagnosed as having a specific learning disability, so I wanted to learn more about this condition.

I wrote and taught a 45-hour course on teaching students with learning disabilities, so I ensured I was aligned with the latest resources in this area.

Lastly, I want to do more in the area of advocating for persons with learning disabilities (LD) as individuals with LD have average or above-average intelligence so most times these students are misunderstood.

60 Years of Learning Disabilities Advocacy: Celebrating Progress, Inspiring Change

In our new documentary, learn more about the origins of LDA, and how we’re carrying on the essential work of advocating for individuals with learning disabilities today.

To celebrate six decades of grassroots support and advocacy for individuals with learning disabilities, we’re sharing the story of the Learning Disabilities Association of America. Journey back to 1963 with us, when a concerned group of parents came together to discuss the dire need for services for their children, and where Dr. Samuel Kirk, ‘the father of learning disabilities,’ created and used the term ‘learning disabilities’ for the very first time. That coalition became the Learning Disabilities Association, and from then onward, we fought to expand and protect the rights of individuals with learning disabilities and pushed for learning disabilities to become universally understood.

LDA was there to help pass key legislation like the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensuring that students with learning disabilities receive the educational support needed for successful learning. Hear from past and present LDA volunteers and employees about the 60 year impact of LDA’s work, and learn how LDA continues to support all individuals with learning disabilities through education and advocacy.

Get the transcript for the documentary here.

Celebrating Young Advocates: Meet Elina Csapo!

As heard on the LDA Podcast.

Elina Csapo is a rising high school senior with apraxia who created Young Able Voices, a peer-to-peer support group for children and teens with hidden disabilities. Elina talks about overcoming bullying, the power of a community of support, the importance of being your true, authentic self, and more! 

Learn more about Young Able Voices at: https://www.youngablevoices.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 intro to educators, individuals of learning disabilities, parents, and professionals to work towards our goal of creating a more equitable world.

Lauren Clouser [00:00:23]:

Hi, everyone. Welcome to the LDA podcast. I’m here today with Elina Csapo. She’s the founder of Young Able Voices, a safe space for kids with hidden disabilities to connect. So, Elina, thank you so much for being here.

Elina Csapo [00:00:35]:

Thanks. I’m so happy to be here.

Lauren Clouser [00:00:37]:

So could you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Elina Csapo [00:00:41]:

So, I’m 17. I live in New Jersey, and this September, I will be a senior. I was adopted from Khabarovsk, Russia, when I was about two and a half years old. My favorite subject is history, and I really enjoy some of my Latin classes. I love playing field hockey, rock climbing, golf, and I have to say I have never been to an ice cream shop that I have not liked.

Lauren Clouser [00:01:15]:

Sounds like you have a lot of good hobbies too to keep you busy. So, could you start off by telling us a little bit about what apraxia is, and then maybe we can dive into your journey with apraxia?

Elina Csapo [00:01:27]:

Yeah. So childhood apraxia of speech is a neurological speech disorder. So how I explain it to people is just a connection between my brain and mouth that doesn’t always connect very well, but it isn’t the strongest. So I was diagnosed when I was about four years old. When I was five, my mom met with literacy experts. And after that meeting, they told her that I was actually never going to be able to read, and I was destined to be a C student. Hearing that, my mom was, like, heartbroken and crying for weeks. When I was younger, a lot of teachers underestimated me. However, because I have such an amazing mom, she pushed me and kept giving me words of encouragement and pushed me to my limits. And I can say that I can read, and I am an A average student.

Lauren Clouser [00:02:41]:

That’s amazing. And it’s so great that your mom’s able to support you in that way. So could you tell us a little bit about some of the day to day challenges that you experience with apraxia?

Elina Csapo [00:02:52]:

So, when I was younger, it definitely was a lot more challenges that I faced, but now as a high school student, I struggle with word recall, I explain it to some that it’s like, my grandparents, old people, they have trouble with coming up with words, so that is something I struggle with on a day to day basis. And then sometimes sounds blur together, especially if I’m tired or it’s late at night. Sometimes like my ‘S’s or ‘SH’s blur together.

Lauren Clouser [00:03:42]:

So what is something that you wish that more people knew about apraxia?

Elina Csapo [00:03:47]:

So my dream for apraxia is for it to be known just as much as dyslexia is known. But I think when I tell people, oh, yeah, it’s a neurological disorder, people sometimes underestimate the intelligence thinking, oh, it has something to do with the intelligence. And that’s kind of what, like, the speech experts start. So I think one thing I would want people to know about, it has nothing to do with your intelligence, and don’t underestimate the kids with apraxia.

Lauren Clouser [00:04:30]:

Yeah. That’s a really important message, but they aren’t necessarily limited in the way that your speech experts thought.

Elina Csapo [00:04:36]:

Yeah, and like, their ability to not like…they have the ability to learn just like anyone’s kid. It’s just hard for them to speak or share their ideas.

Lauren Clouser [00:04:49]:

Well, and then I was watching the introduction video on your website, And in it you mentioned, you know, going through, feeling unheard and alone with your apraxia, could you talk to us a little bit about that?

Elina Csapo [00:05:02]:

So when I was younger, no one really understood. I understood that I sounded different because of a speech disorder. So no one could really understand me, and it was hard for me to make friends. And for years, I didn’t know that…I was the only one with apraxia. So I couldn’t really connect with anyone or know that, oh, I’m not, like, the only person who has apraxia or going through a hidden disability.

Lauren Clouser [00:05:45]:

Yeah. That’s really true. So you would also mention some experiences with bullies. Unfortunately, you know, that’s something that we hear about quite a bit. So could you talk a little bit about how that impacted you? And do you have any advice for students who might be going through some bullying right now?

Elina Csapo [00:06:02]:

So I can remember bullying from kindergarten to 8th grade. It wasn’t like every single day, but it was a part of my experience growing up. So reflecting back, I don’t really have a grudge on the kids when I was younger in elementary or intermediate school, as I honestly feel like they didn’t know what they were doing. They didn’t understand. However, middle school is a little bit different story. So one experience in middle school, it was the first marking period, and there was this kid who, I will just call ‘A’, who kept making fun of how I sounded, saying like, ‘why do you sound so different?’ ‘You should go back to where you came from,’ or just really hurtful words and comments, and, like, ‘No one can understand you,’ trying to push me down. And I didn’t tell the teacher or my mom for a while, as I thought I could handle it. And I’ve handled other cases, but, also, I kind of felt like it was common. I was like, I expected that. At that point, I expected someone making comments like that, but eventually it just became too much. And one time I came home, and I told my mom, I’m about to punch this kid if he makes one more comment. I wouldn’t really punch, but I was very angry and hurt. And my mom immediately reached out to the principal to the teacher. And the next day, the teacher pulled me aside and said that he was going to fix this. And so that was a really impactful experience as I realized that I don’t deserve to expect that people will make mean comments. I expect a human respect, decency. And so from then on, when I get mean comments, which I didn’t get many, bullying is banned, but I just told the teacher. And unfortunately the next year I lost a friend that I thought I had. But yeah. So always expect, demand to get human decency and respect.

Lauren Clouser [00:09:02]:

That’s great advice. I really love that. and again, I’m sorry you went through that, but I think that’s such a good message to share with people that you know, you don’t deserve that, and you should reach out. Well, switching gears here a little bit. Could you tell us about Young Able Voices?

Elina Csapo [00:09:18]:

So Young Able Voices is a nonprofit organization, got papers filled out earlier this summer, so it’s a peer-to-peer support group for kids and teens with hidden disabilities to connect with one another, via zoom or online to know that they aren’t alone and that their future is bright.

Lauren Clouser [00:09:44]:

That’s great because it sounds like community is so important, to helping people know that they’re not alone. Yeah. So could you talk a little bit about why you decided to create Young Able Voices? It sounds like your own experience really shaped a lot of that.

Elina Csapo [00:09:59]:

Yeah. So I will try to do the short version.

Lauren Clouser [00:10:03]:

Sure!

Elina Csapo [00:10:05]:

As it’s quite an interesting, story. Right before the pandemic I was in 8th grade, and my speech teacher told me that I graduated speech. And for me, for the longest time, that was something I was wishing and hoping for. It was this huge fantasy of mine that once I was done speech, I wanted a big giant cake, I wanted a banner, I wanted a whole celebration and be done with that. But apraxia is the gift that keeps on giving, and you can never fully get rid of apraxia. So during my sophomore year, I realized that I needed to go back to speech due to word recall. I was really struggling with that. And having that frustration, that realization…because I always thought if I work hard on something, I would overcome it. But with apraxia, as much as I work hard, it won’t ever go away. So that was a big realization for me. And, so I wanted to talk to people about it. And I thought I would find a support group, because my mom was a part of many support groups on Facebook. Unfortunately, I couldn’t I didn’t find any. And I still had that frustration. And I even tried, my school offered this literary magazine thing, and I wrote about my apraxia and submitted it. Unfortunately it didn’t get published, but it was a really good way to get my anger out. But this is the funny part of it. So I was going, near the end of my sophomore year, I was going on my first date. And I realized that I could not say my date’s name. It had 2 ‘R’s in it, my nemesis, and so I called up my speech teacher and we practiced it for 10 minutes and it went good. So as a thank you, my mom sent her the piece I wrote about my apraxia. So, like, 3 hours later, I get an email from a teacher from my school wanting to have lunch with me. At first, it was like, oh gosh, what happened? Well apparently, my speech teacher sent it to her colleague, and her colleagues sent it to the parents they work with, and one of them was a teacher at my school. So her daughter just got diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech. And she wanted to know what her future would be like. And that’s what really changed it all for me. After that conversation, I came home, I told my mom about it. And I told her, why isn’t there a support group for people to connect? Like, kids, teens, And then she gave me, like, one of her looks and that was ultimately when I decided to try to start something, start a community.

Lauren Clouser [00:13:56]:

That’s awesome. Filling in need that you saw. That’s awesome. Could you talk to us a little bit more about why it’s so important to have this community of support? I think, you know, you touched on it a little earlier when you said it can feel like you’re alone a lot of the time. Could you tell us a little bit about the benefits of having a community of people that understand you?

Elina Csapo [00:14:17]:

So having that community definitely helps you not feel alone, knowing that there are others who are in the same boat as you or was in the same boat, who could offer some pieces of advice. And it helps you really not feel like an outcast, as sometimes I know when I was a girl, and even now sometimes, I feel like an outcast. But with that community, I can be myself, I don’t need to work as hard with my apraxia. I can just relax. And really the community gives love, hope for the future, a lot of empathy and a lot of understanding, and it’s just a place where people can really be their true authentic selves, and not feeling the pressure of trying to fit in or be perfect. As we all know that we are struggling with something, and we have that understanding.

Lauren Clouser [00:15:31]:

Well, and just a little bit more about the group too, is it just for people with apraxia, and what age groups are typically in Young Able Voices?

Elina Csapo [00:15:40]:

So I have a bunch of age groups, so I have from like, 8

Elina Csapo [00:15:48]:

to, like, twelve year olds, around that range, and then I have high schoolers slash middle schoolers. There’s weekly chats. It’s not just for people, kids, or teens with apraxia. It’s for anyone with any hidden disability dyslexia. or any sort of speech disorders, stuttering, all sorts.

Lauren Clouser [00:16:23]:

That’s awesome. So how can those who are interested, how can they start to join in? Do they just go to your website?

Elina Csapo [00:16:31]:

Yeah. So, they can go to www.youngablevoices.com, and on my website, as soon as you see, it tells you what Young Able Voices is. And then on the side, there are weekly chats and when you go in, you will select the chat of the week. And for the date and time, there was a link, and there’s going to be a calendar, and you can just click on the dates, that weekly chat and sign up. You can also reach out to me on my email at Elina@youngablevoices or through social media at Young Able Voices on Instagram and Facebook.

Lauren Clouser [00:17:20]:

That’s great. We’ll make sure to include that in the show notes so people can find it easily. And then, Elina, I just have one last question for you. And what are your plans for the future?

Elina Csapo [00:17:33]:

So, in the recent future I am planning a hidden disability summit at my school in mid-October, and planning to do stuff with Young Able Voices, as the 3rd week of October is invisible disability awareness week. And then my further future is going to college.

Lauren Clouser [00:18:05]:

Fantastic. Do you know what you wanna study? What are you gonna do?

Elina Csapo [00:18:10]:

I’m thinking about maybe doing a double major in business in psychology. But really my goal in life, or in my future career, is just to really help people the best I can.

Lauren Clouser [00:18:25]:

Absolutely. And it sounds like you’re already doing that with Young Able Voices. So before we wrap up, I just wanted to ask, is there anything else that you wanna talk about or mention that maybe I didn’t ask a question about?

Elina Csapo [00:18:39]:

Just wanna leave with one little thing. So definitely with my apraxia, I never felt normal. However, normal definitely doesn’t get you to where you will be in the future. So forging your own path, it’s scary, yeah, but it would get you farther in life than trying to fit in with everyone else. And it’s scary, but I will want to encourage people to try to be their best self, be their authentic self.

Lauren Clouser [00:19:26]:

I think that’s a great note to end on.

Elina Csapo [00:19:28]:

Yeah.

Lauren Clouser [00:19:29]:

Well, Elina, thank you so much for being on the show, and thank you so much for creating Young Able Voices where people can have a spot to feel safe and connect with others.

Elina Csapo [00:19:39]:

Thank you. And thank you both so much for inviting me. It was great talking with you.

Lauren Clouser [00:19:50]:

Thank you for listening to the LDA podcast. To learn more about LDA and to get valuable resources and support, visit ldaamerica.org.


Do you know someone who would be a great fit for our ‘Celebrating Young Advocates’ series? Send us an email at info@ldaamerica.org for a chance for them to be featured on The LDA Podcast!

Meet our Members: Meet Nichole Fussell!

Tell us about yourself!

Hi, I am Nichole Fussell; I am the Director for Disability Services at Faulkner University. I also am the LDA President for the Alabama chapter.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I was a pole-vaulter in college.

Why did you become a member of LDA?

I became an LDA member when I first got into the field of disability services to learn more about resources in our community and to assist with needs and trainings. I really have learned so much from LDA, especially the resources in my community and the needs of individuals in Alabama.

Our former president Tamara Massey works with Healthy Children and this has really influenced Alabama in educating individuals about environmental factors that can affect children. LDA really helps families to better understand resources and the needs of individuals with learning disabilities.  

Registration is Open for LDACON61!

Educators, professionals, adults with LD, parents, and students, as we celebrate our 61st Annual International Conference, we’re keenly aware that this conference is all about YOU! Our attendees, our speakers, our sponsors and our colleagues come together to network, learn, have a bit of fun, and then take home what we’ve learned to continue to support, educate and advocate for individuals with learning disabilities.

Our conference includes fantastic speakers, three amazing keynote speakers and our exhibit hall, with some of the best schools, products, technology and supports for individuals with learning disabilities all in one room. Connect with vendors, learn more about topics of interest and network with colleagues from across the world – all in beautiful Orlando. We can’t wait to see you there!

For more guidance on how to register for LDACON61 using our conference platform, watch this walk-through video. Reach out to us at info@ldaamerica.org with any difficulties, and we’ll be happy to help!

Book Your Room!

Our conference and all official events will take place at the Renaissance Orlando Hotel at SeaWorld. Book your room at the Renaissance through our hotel block!

Parenting Complex Kids with a Coach-Like Approach

Heard on the LDA Podcast

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.

Meet Our Members: Meet Peter Flom!

Tell us about yourself!

When I was 5 years old, I was asked not to return to kindergarten. A psychologist told my parents I had “minimal brain dysfunction” and “would never go to college.” My mother got together with Elizabeth Friedus and started the Gateway School for me. I got my BA at 20 and now have two MAs and a PhD. I also have two grown kids. I’ve written a book about LD (Screwed Up Somehow but not Stupid: Life with a Learning Disability) and am working on my memoir (Twice as Weird: A Memoir about 2E).

What’s a fun fact about you?

I can juggle.

Why did you become a member of LDA?

I’m learning disabled, my older kid is also LD, I write about LD, and advocate for LD. How could I not join?