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Sarah Ward: Executive Function, Task Planning, and Practicality

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

Sarah Ward is an internationally recognized expert on executive function whose work includes speaking, teaching, and writing. She gives presentations on developing and building executive function skills as well as provides executive function coaching interventions with practical strategies. Sarah is the Co-Director of Cognitive Connections, co-authored the 360 Thinking Executive program, and has co-developed educational products such as the Academic Planner and Tracknets!

Why Executive Function?

Sarah started with a career as a brain injury rehab specialist. When her husband suffered from a brain injury, he lost his executive function skills and Sarah could not find someone who gave them practical strategies to help. So, she switched paths and became an executive function specialist. She knew she wanted to make this switch because she needed more flexibility over her time and took advantage of the opportunity to specialize in what she was really passionate about: executive function!

"Have specificity as your superpower when you're blocking time"

Let's take planning out the hours of our day to the next level! Dedicating hours to specific tasks and being clear about what needs to get done during that time is the first step. But, what about the transition time in between those hours? Sarah calls these the "goes-withs" and the "maybes".

For example, you might need to add in extra time for the walk from the locker room to soccer practice or maybe you are going to grab a pizza with your friends right after practice. Adding in this extra time is the specificity that is going to take your hourly task-planning to the next level and make you feel even more accomplished!

How do I profit from speaking about my work?

Sarah has found great success from giving presentations and speaking about her work. She has presented to and consulted with over 1,600 public and private schools in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa!

So, how does she do it? Sarah adds practical and applicable information into her presentations, providing people with tangible tools that encourage measurable change. She also recommends adding stories into your presentations to give a deeper understanding to your audience in the form of imagery.


Sean McCormick 0:01 Today on The Earn More Tutoring podcast, Sarah Ward and I talk about how after spending years providing support to patients with traumatic brain injuries at work, she found herself providing the same support for her family leading to her specializing in helping individuals with a range of executive function challenges. Sarah Ward 0:20 And so I have a husband who lost his executive function skills, and my daughter who has a really significant ADHD and dyslexia had really lagging development of executive function skills. So I sort of found myself in this place of where I personally would go to a lot of professional developments, but then they never really told you what to do to remediate it. And that just made me crazy because I knew what executive function was, but I had to find more strategies that were robust to both teach my daughter these skills as well as to reteach my husband these skills. Sean McCormick 0:53 This is Earn More Tutoring, the ultimate crowdsource education entrepreneurship show. This week I speak with Sarah Ward, an internationally recognized expert on executive function. Sarah has presented and consulted with over 1200 public and private schools in the United States, Canada and Europe. Yes, I said 1200. She also provides consultation and expert witness testimony and instruction to graduate level students. Welcome to the show Sarah. Sarah Ward 1:19 Thank you so much. I'm so excited to be here with you today. Really looking forward to the conversation. Sean McCormick 1:24 Absolutely. Yeah, myself as well. So what I'd love to start with is, you know, I know you do so many different things. And you know, you've got such an incredible speaking profile. But I'd love for you just to talk about your different offerings, your business and areas of focus. So we have a broad overview on what your specialties are. Sarah Ward 1:41 You bet. So I would say probably a solid, about 80% of my work is definitely doing presentations and professional development on developing executive function, whether it's in the classroom, so I do a lot of professional development for general educators, as well as special educators on what you can do, just naturally reading into the classroom to build kids executive function skills, and then explicit direct instruction intervention. And then I work with a lot of, you know, Speech and Language Pathology, psychology groups, providing, you know, recommendations for treatment interventions, and writing goals, all of those kinds of things. And then I definitely have a very busy caseload right now, and especially virtually, where I'm providing executive function coaching and intervention to students. And I work with kids probably about second grade all the way through certainly high school and college. And then I have a lot of adults on my caseload as well, because certainly, there are more and more adults that will say, Oh, my gosh, you know, this is the one thing that continues to impact me in my place of work, and really, you know, affects my ability to succeed and to kind of get to the next level. So I work with a lot of adults and professionals as well. And then the other portion is certainly doing a lot of writing. My co director, Kristen, and I have developed the 360 thinking executive function curriculum. And so we have a number of publications that are sort of at the editing stage, and I have a bit of an inner tech geek. So I'm always looking at coding and doing all sorts of different things, we just developed a new Chrome extension to go with our iPad app to manage time. So I would say those are my big hats, speaking teaching and tech. Sean McCormick 3:24 One thing that really jumped out to me when I was looking at your your bio, was that you've given over 1200 speeches, and I'm sure the numbers are even bigger at this point. First off, how do you keep track of all the A's? I don't want a spreadsheet? Or how do you keep track the number of you just notch it somewhere? It's time? And then second, how did you get into speaking because I think that's something that a lot of educators would love to do more of, but they just don't even have an idea of how they would make that jump. So I'd love to hear more about that. Sarah Ward 3:53 Well, the funny part about tracking your lectures is that a lot of times when you have to present and they're offering continuing education, or they're offering professional development points, the process of getting approved to be a speaker who's providing, you know, lectures that are for professional development points, you have to turn in so much paperwork, and part of the paperwork is you have to prove and show that you've given presentations previously on this and they want to know what that is. So every time I give a presentation, I just have to keep adding it to my CV, so that when I submit for continuing education credits, I get approval...

Check out the full interview below!

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