• Rachel Hoover

What can an SLP do about ADHD?

Updated: Aug 20, 2019

For young children, playing with simple toys like wooden blocks can develop powerful imaginative neurological pathways that will help them be able to focus and plan later in life!

It seems like, these days, everyone has ADHD. Whether it's an actual diagnosis, or it's used as an aphorism to dismiss unfocussed behavior, attention issues are becoming quite the hot topic in the cognitive development world. Many clinicians and parents alike are asking the question, "How do we help our children develop focus in this scattered and hectic world?"

If we were to put that question in clinical terms, we'd ask, "How do we help kids develop executive functioning skills?" Now, in case you're wondering, "executive functioning" is kind of a fancy term for someone's ability to get stuff done, to deal with the higher-level aspects of life. Basically, another way of saying someone has ADHD would be to describe that person as having an "Executive Function Disorder". People who have Executive Functioning Disorders tend to have difficulty planning and completing tasks, and some communication issues as well. Issues with executive functioning can display themselves in a range of symptoms, from having difficulty with emotional regulation, motivation, controlling behavior, or attention to high-level cognitive functions like problem-solving, flexibility, self-monitoring, goal-setting, planning, and reasoning skills. These kinds of skills are developed over a lifetime of different experiences... BUT, they can also be taught!

Last fall, I had the privilege to attend a conference entitled "Cutting Edge Strategies to Improve Executive Function Skills" by renowned executive functioning expert Sarah Ward, MS, CCC-SLP. It was completely earth-shatteringly incredible material, and really rocked my world as both a parent and a clinician. The most exciting thing was to leave with actual tools in my belt to help clients develop these skills that are so crucial to success! I left feeling giddy that, once again, I could use cutting-edge neuroscience to help people develop cognitive skills. And that, my friends, is why I love being an SLP!

So, if you or someone you know struggles with executive functioning issues (like attention, motivation, emotional regulation, problem-solving, goal-setting, planning, etc.), I'd love to chat with you about what you're dealing with and how SLPs can help!


If you'd like to learn more about executive functioning, and some of the methods that SLPs and parents can employ to teach these skills, I found a great YouTube video featuring a presentation by Sarah Ward on many of the topics she covered at the conference.

As a parent of a toddler, I also want to add a few quick tips for parents in helping your kiddos develop these skills.


  • Executive functioning skills start developing at a VERY young age. One of the most crucial things for very young children is that they engage in as much pretend play as possible. Developing an active imagination at an early age is critical to being able to later "imagine" the results of your actions or "imagine" how you'll get everything done tomorrow. The good news is, the less toys (and the less fancy), the more imagination they have to use! So break out those wooden blocks, hide away the iPads, and let your kiddos' imaginations do the rest!

  • If you have a school-aged child who finds task completion or planning difficult, I'd encourage you to check out Sarah Ward's materials on this topic, including the YouTube video linked above. They are so simple and practical. She and her business partner have developed a model of executive functioning called 360 Thinking. They've developed this program to help children "see the future, say the future and feel the future" in order to strengthen key aspects of executive skills. The first step of this program is to always encourage your child to ask, "What will this look like?", to encourage visualization of a finalized product. The next 3 steps are entitled, "Get Ready, Do, Done" and help the child to walk through the necessary steps to complete a task. If you'd like some practical aides for helping your child with developing these skills, Sarah Ward's company sells some excellent materials: . For more information on the super simple 360 Thinking methods, check out this article:

  • I love to talk about this stuff, so if you have any questions or want to find out how an SLP can help develop these skills, please feel free to reach out!

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