169: Innovative Ways to Improve Executive Functions, with Randy Kulman, Ph.D.

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

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Many neurodivergent kids love video games. They’re stimulating, rewarding, and often a less intimidating social environment. However, parents worry about how much time their kids are spending on screens. FInding balance is key, but you can also use your child’s interest in digital play to build skills, like executive functions. Kids are practicing planning, organization, time management, problem solving and more in their video games. You can use that to help them apply those skills in their everyday, offline life.

And that’s exactly what my guest, Randy Kulman, Ph.D., founder of Learningworks for Kids, discusses in this episode of the Parenting ADHD Podcast. Join us to learn how to use his Detect-Reflect-Connect model to help your kids relate the skills they use in their favorite games to real life tasks and activities.


Some of the resources may be affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission (at no cost to you) if you use that link to make a purchase.

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Visit LearningWorks for Kids to find games and apps that can build skills. Filter the list by age range, skill, or learning challenge.

Irresistible by Adam Alter

The Gaming Overload Workbook, by Randy Kulman, Ph.D.

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My Guest

Randy Kulman, Ph.D. is the founder of LearningWorks for Kids, an educational technology company that specializes in using video games to teach executive-functioning and academic skills. He conducts neuropsychological evaluations of children with executive functioning and attention difficulties at South County Child and Family Consultants. His latest project is LW4K LIVE, a live, online, small-group executive function tutoring program that uses games such as Minecraft and Roblox to practice and improve executive functions.


Additionally, Dr. Kulman is the author of numerous essays and book chapters on the use of digital technologies for improving executive-functioning skills in children. His current research projects include the development of a parent and teacher scale for assessing executive-functioning skills in children and a large survey study examining how children with ADHD and Autism use popular video games and apps. He is an advisor and occasional writer for Psychology Today, ADDitude Magazine, Autism Parenting Magazine, and Commonsensemedia.org. He is the author of three books; Train Your Brain for Success: A Teenager’s Guide to Executive Functions, Playing Smarter in a Digital World, and the recently published, The Gaming Overload Workbook for Teens.



Randy Kulman 0:03

Talk to your kids and listen to them about their play about their gameplay. Let them tell you about it. Because if they do talk about the game, right, what they're going to reveal to you and what will become more evident to them is that they are problem solving all the time.

Penny Williams 0:19

Welcome to The Parenting ADHD podcast, where I share insights and strategies on raising kids with ADHD straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, ADHD a Holic and mindset mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your a typical kid. Let's get started.

Welcome back to The Parenting ADHD Podcast. Today I am talking to Randy Coleman, who has been on the podcast before. And I'm a huge fan of Randy's work and learning works for kids. And we're going to talk about innovative ways to improve executive functions, especially play and digital play. I'm really excited to bring this conversation to all of you who are listening, because I think it's really, really important to understand the benefits of digital play as well. Thanks so much for being here. Randy, will you start just by introducing yourself? Let everybody know who you are and what you do.

Randy Kulman 1:25

Sure, Penny and thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. I have so much fun talking to you today. And listeners won't ever get to hear our conversations before. But I really enjoy having those as well. And hopefully we can have some more of them. So yeah, I'm a child clinical psychologist been doing this for a long time working with kids with ADHD, autism spectrum disorders. And I would say the thing that is striking for me is that I was trained by a professor at University of Rochester, David L. Chi, who was an expert in play. And when I started working with kids, in the late 1990s, early 90s, as well, they loved playing with video games. And I began to notice that and in fact, one of the things that would happen is parents would bring these kids into my office. And they'd say, we were referred by the school for my kid because they have ADHD. But I know they can't have ADHD because they love playing video games. They can spend all day paying attention to video games. I said, What's that about? And started to learn a little bit about that, because I had always, like I said, an interest in play actually wrote my master's thesis about play. Long story short, we thought about creating games for kids with ADHD that might be helpful for them. And eventually, we sort of settled on this idea that, kids learn from their play.

Why don't they learn from the digital play? Why don't they learn from their playing with video games? And I realized, well, of course they do. Yeah, long story, even shorter, if you will, is we began to look at that. And I began interviewing kids, and recognize that when kids played popular video games, the good games, the complex games, that that multi levels and layers of of work is that they were using a variety of these executive functioning skills, almost every great game required kids to be do planning, time management, they need to organize stuff, they need to get started on stuff, they need to be persistent. They need to do uses executive functioning skills. So that's sort of how I got interested in this. I had always been interested in ADHD and executive functions, but realize that I can kind of combine those two.

Penny Williams 3:23

Yeah, and I love it because you're meeting kids where they are, and speaking their language, which is a great way to reach kids to help them to learn skills. Can we start with just a super brief overview of what executive functioning is for anybody who's listening? Who doesn't know that terminology yet?

Randy Kulman 3:42

Okay, absolutely. So the first thing I want to say is, if you get 100, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists and room and ask them to tell you what executive function is, she'd likely get about 100 different definitions. Yeah. So starting with that, here's mine. Okay. And as when I say my, the one that I've kind of grabbed over the course of many years and reading and working on this is, I think about them as sort of brain based cognitive skills that help people to manage and to direct their behaviors, managing their emotions, as well, so they can get things done. So the skills you need to get things done. Yeah. And the older version of thinking about executive functions, what they were all they were all really biologically brain based. They were static that you couldn't improve them. Nowadays, because of our understanding of neuroplasticity, and how we can change brains. We really think about them as skills. The model that I use and the model that I find to be really great for kids with ADHD. And autism spectrum disorders is a model that was developed primarily by Peggy Dawson and Richard Gere, where they described 11 Different executive functioning skills. In our work at learning with kids. We added a 12th one around social skills, but if you want I can kind of give you a list of those. Would that be helpful?

Penny Williams 4:52

Yeah, I think so. So parents can understand what maybe behaviors they're seeing that are actually related to lagging executive functioning.

Randy Kulman 5:00

Yeah. So the way that doesn't get developed, as they talked about there being 11, different skills. One is task initiation, getting started on stuff. A second one is sustained attention being able to sustain your attention to tasks. A third is task persistence, kind of sticking to it. Stick to itiveness, if you will, yeah, the next one is one that's common to almost all the definitions of executive functions, response, inhibition, inhibitory control, being able to stop yourself. Another one that's really interesting that we're now thinking about much more with kids with ADHD and certainly lupus spectrum disorders, is effective regulation, regulating your emotions, controlling your emotions. Time management is another skill that is important. And boy was important during COVID-19 When kids were at home trying to do their work. Yeah, and they couldn't Mm hmm. Working memory is is really important holding information in mind and be able to use that so those kids who can't follow directions, oftentimes, they're not being inattentive, oftentimes, they're not being oppositional. They can just only hold one or two things in mind for a certain amount of time.

I mean, yeah, what they can do. Another one is organization, which, again, I'll go back to COVID-19 Oh, my God, did I hear about organizational difficulties with kids planning skills, flexibility, a really important one for kids on the spectrum for sure, in terms of being able to adjust transition, change, adapt to new situations, metacognition, being able to think about your own thoughts and kind of be reflected. And the one that we add to this is social thinking, thinking about other people, they don't think about how other people are thinking, and recognizing that paying attention to social cues. So those 12 skills are what I would define as executive functions. And what makes this particular model useful from my perspective. And I think from the perspective of parents, is you can target one or two of these things, rather than saying, Oh, we're going to improve your executive function skills, we're going to target this particular skill, and what can we do about that skill to help him?

Penny Williams 6:53

Yeah, and that's so important too, because you need to focus on one or two goals at a time to really make change in my experience, if you're trying to work on 12 different things at one time, you're diluting your efforts, and you're not really going to make a ton of progress on any one thing. So I've always coached parents to focus on one to two things, let's work on that get a good footing, then we can add something else. I want to kind of talk about how you are integrating gaming and digital play with learning executive functioning skills. I know so many of the games that our kids play, they involve strategy, they involve a lot of these skills. But then it seems like they struggle to translate that or to use that in their daily life. So they're learning the skill in the game. But then when they come out of the game, it seems harder for them to apply that skill that they've learned. Do you see that too?

Randy Kulman 7:54

Absolutely. The funny things about all this is that if kids were really learning all these skills and games, I wouldn't have any work to do in my office. You know, when I do neuro psychological evaluations of kids, and while the primary diagnosis is oftentimes ADHD, or learning disability, autism spectrum disorder, the underlying issues are many of these deficits and executive functioning skills. So if the kids were learning so much from these games, why do they keep coming to see me so? So they're obviously not learning that much from the game. Now, let me step back in say to you that there is some compelling evidence that certain games can improve executive function skills, but they have improved them very modestly. So when they do studies of this, for example, they've studied the game Starcraft and found that it actually helps kids to become more flexible. And it extended a number of other the action based games. There's a couple of researches, definitely Valley and Sean Greene, who have done a series of studies that suggest that it can help improve sustained attention. There are people who are playing different kinds of video games that can learn to inhibit themselves in the video games, and show some capacity to show that skill outside, but it's very modest. And and you're right, any, those kids are not showing that in their day to day life. Right.

So why is that? Well, so there's a number of reasons. I mean, I'll go back to sort of my discussion to you about around play. I've always, like I said, I've always been very interested in play. I, one of my mentors is someone who's a world expert in play, if anybody wants to learn about children's play and how they learn from read. Dr. David L kinds work. I mean, it's incredible. But kids learn from their play, and they do learn from the digital play. But I think in the past, what happens is, is that kids play oftentimes would lead to kind of practicing certain roles. So kids would play house or school, or cops and robbers and they would take on roles and learn that they would follow their parents around and do things like that they or their parents would be engaged with that play as well.

So they will keep coming home from the baseball game and they lose the game and they're frustrated and the parent used Is that as a teaching opportunity? Well, I think that one of the things that's happened with video games is that parents are not very involved with that. So they don't use the children's gameplay to kind of help them to take what they learned in the game and apply it outside of the real world. The other part to it is, it's very simple. It's like the ability to sort of transfer what you've learned from one place to another is, in some ways, basically, about hunting a series of steps. So what we call near transfer. So for example, taking your tennis lesson where you're practicing your forehand to being able to go and hit rallies where you move around a little bit with your forehand is a close transfer, you kind of stay in one place at one point.

And now you move into step, you can do that more readily applying it in a game necessarily, where you're hustling all over the place, and you having to hit it with from Spin other things, it's a little bit harder, the further away it is, the more difficult it is. And that's one of the things that we see in these, we're looking at games and learning executive functioning skills. I mean, that process of the broader process is what we call generalization. How do you take what you've learned in place a, and apply it effectively in place be not an easy thing. In fact, I would argue with you that the process of generalization from school to the real world is oftentimes not not particularly good. I can't tell you how many times I've talked to people who are hiring kids who have graduated from college, and they say, they're coming here, but they don't have any job skills, yet. They don't necessarily apply what they've learned in their education to the real world, they have to actually go do it. Yeah. Well, so that's where the problem is. It's like, how do you make that happen?

Penny Williams 11:35

Yeah. And that's what you're doing? Right? You're helping kids to take their gameplay and apply it as executive functioning skills in their day to day. Right,

Randy Kulman 11:45

Exactly. I mean, let me tell you how we started doing this. And we realized that this was not terribly effective. What we initially did at learning works for kids is we said, Okay, let's take a look at these games. And when we started, we were mostly working on console games. Because back when we started around 2000, the kinds of games that were out there were the games on the Nintendo or the PlayStation, then eventually the Xbox came around. And now of course, every game is on all kinds of platforms, and kids are playing on their phones, and all that kind of stuff. So there's so much more variation with it. But what we began to do initially is we would identify games that were really useful in terms of the way that they practiced executive functioning skills, if you were going to be successful in this game, you needed to be able to use an executive functioning skill in those games.

And then what we would do is we'd write up these extensive descriptions of the games, and then give parents and teachers particular talking points and strategies around things that they could talk to the kids about that would have occurring in the game. And then we gave them we called Make it real ideas, which will basically to say, Alright, so now you've talked about this part, you've got the kids to think about it. Now, here's some activities you could do. Well, what we found out pretty quickly, was that parents were very interested in what we were talking about, but not very interested in doing what we suggest, right? So it didn't really help the kids very much. I mean, it made the parents think, oh, you know what, maybe these games are not so bad for my kids. And, and even in the simplest level, if you listeners get one thing from for this podcast, it's not going to be necessarily about executive functions.

But if they get one thing from this, I would tell them, talk to your kids and listen to them about their play about their gameplay, let them tell you about it. Because if they do talk about the gameplay, what they're going to reveal to you and what will become more evident to them is that they are problem solving all the time. And part of the process of kind of making that transfer, as you're saying is to think about it, and to then move it someplace Atlanta. So kids, we have a simple little ditty that we talked about, we call it detect, reflect connect, first, you're going to be able to identify the skill or detect the skill, then you need to be able to reflect or think about this is the process of metacognition that we've identified as an executive function. And we want the kids to think about it in two ways. Think about how did this particular skill help you in the game, and how might it help you in the real world, and then the Kinect piece is helping the kids to to recognize and then practice that skill in the real world. So when kids take our classes, we don't just get them to kind of play the game, think about the skill and learn how they use skill in the game.

We give them assignments that are usually fun and relate very much to what they're doing, where they have to actually do it. And then demonstrate that they do that, especially in our new self guided classes, they have to take a picture of that they earn what we call brain bucks, so they earn rewards for doing this. So to practice, so we actually help them make that connection by taking those three steps.

Penny Williams 14:35

Yeah, can you provide maybe a general example of what that might look like? Maybe a specific game?

Randy Kulman 14:44

Sure. Sure. Sure. Absolutely. So two of our favorite games that we're using right now I have a games that we like so we use the popular games and the reason games are popular by the way, is not that the easy? Okay? The games that are popular, a games that are intriguing to kids that are challenging. Yeah. If that really require cognitive skills, so it makes them think I mean, kids, oftentimes even people think about a game like fortnight it's all about just shooting Okay? Well, and by the way, I don't like fortnight for younger kids. So when parents come in and tell me, they've got a six year old playing fortnight I roll my eyes and I go, and then sometimes I'll say something, sometimes I won't, depending upon how I'm feeling, because I don't want to tell people how to parent their kids. But I usually do say, You know what, that's probably not the best game for a six year old. But all those games, even getting like fortnight really requires them to do this.

So let's take a game like Minecraft. So in Minecraft, Minecraft, Roblox fantastic games, when kids play Minecraft, they need to organize stuff. So for example, if they want to build a shelter, so that they can protect themselves from the end of men and all the bad guys that are going to kind of attack them at night, they've got to organize that they've got to collect certain kinds of materials, they've got to put it together, and then they've got to use some planning skills. And so what we get the kids to do, in fact, when they play with us on some of our we make our own Minecraft Maps, they actually walk through something that tells them that they detect reflect connect steps, and we kind of give them some ideas about what they're doing them. But so they need to actually do that in the game, we get them to talk about that in our live classes, or in our self guided classes, what they ended up doing is they ended up kind of having to answer some quiz questions that make them think about those skills that kind of detect these. And then we give them an activity that's related to that. So let's say, organize your backpack and take a picture of that. So we can see how you did that you put all the materials you needed to get to school, just like you put all the materials you needed to build your structure. How do you do that? So we're just trying to get them to think about that stuff.

Penny Williams 16:33

Yeah, I love that. Yeah,

Randy Kulman 16:35

I mean, listen, I would love to tell you that that's all we gotta do. And the kids are gonna have a wonderful executive writing skills. But that's not the case. Yeah, the real case is that parents need to be involved, teachers need to be involved. And these kids need lots of practice. Most of the kids that you work with in your work with parents in the kids that I see this not something that you just do once and they learn it not repetition, it's practice. And by the way, one of the ways that we learned to generalize, is we learned to do many similar kinds of things repeatedly. So back to my tennis example, if you will, is you know that if you can kind of learn to hit your forehand from different spots in the court, then if you can learn to hit it to different places. If you can learn to hit topspin, and backspin I mean, can you learn all those things and the more you do it, the better you get. So it's like you building smallest skill, I almost almost want to call them sub skills, and practicing them in different situations. And that's sort of you know, how things work best. And that's even true. Actually, when they've done some interesting studies. They've done some studies around playing shorter, casual video games with kids to see can they improve executive function skills? And they find the answer is yes, what they find is that they give them a bunch of different similar games using the same skill, they actually learn a little bit more. So it's that repetition that plays a role here too.

Penny Williams 17:57

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Randy Kulman 19:19

Absolutely. Yeah, I think you're you're asking some fantastic questions around this. So I would say one of the things that is really fantastic about gameplay for kids is kids do not play video games. I shouldn't say making this as an absolute statement. This old vision that many people have of kids playing video games sitting in a dark room facing a computer. Playing by themselves is probably accounts for five or 10% of kids. Most kids are playing social games, they are involved with their friends. Now sometimes they're involved with their friends who are living in Norway, as opposed to living around the corner. Yeah, but there's one For social opportunities, particularly for kids who might be socially anxious, then one of the great ways to use games is to use games to play with the kids friends in school to kind of help them facilitate that happening to kind of do that they're talking to their friends, because guess what, when they come to school the next day, guess what they're gonna do, they're gonna talk about their game, play with their friends, well, if that's what they're interested, great, but they're talking to their friends, they're doing stuff with their friends. So that social piece is incredibly powerful, and useful. Now, there's a whole other aspect to this that can be, I think, really fantastic for some of the kids on the spectrum, some of the kids with ADHD, which is that this also can lead to a real interest in practice with technology. Yeah. So I'm gonna brag about you.

Penny and I were talking earlier about how she developed all this work that she's done on a website by herself and learned how to do all this stuff with WordPress. And just, I mean, you really became an expert on that. Well, many of these kids, I mean, I sometimes think that we live in the world of Asperger's, where, because of this, so much technology, so much work that's going on. So there's this whole aspect around learning how to use technology. When you play games like Roblox, where you can create your own games, Minecraft, you can do all kinds of coding and things like that, again, a wonderful opportunity to kind of take game based play and make it into real world skills and useful skills. Now, so at some point, I think you'll ask me, you can ask me a question about the negatives. And there's plenty of those too. Yeah. Well, I'll get to those when you ask. Yeah.

Penny Williams 21:31

So two things came up for me. One is that there's a whole huge gaming industry. Now, there are lots of jobs and careers for kids who are interested in that. So you know, don't think that gaming is just a total waste of time, it can lead to an interest in a job and a career and successful adulthood. So that's one thing that I would throw out there, because my kids, when they were younger, talked about that a lot. And I would kind of roll my eyes like, And, granted, this was 10, 12 years ago. So it was a different time with gaming and stuff. But still. And then as they got older, I realized, like, there are degrees in these things, there are lots of opportunities in the gaming industry. And that's a really valid interest as a career. The other thing was the social aspect that you were talking about. My own son has always said, when I'm gaming, that's when I can interact with people and be myself. And people accept me, he feels like he fits in that world where he doesn't always feel like he fits in what we would call the real world, right in person at school, etc. And he really learned a lot of social skills by playing those games. And yes, we had to be careful about him being online with people we didn't know, sometimes he was online with all those in person friends from school.

And what happened to him, like in elementary school and middle school, was that he would go and he would be the expert. And kids would ask him questions about the games, and it would make him feel really good about himself. Right? It would build his confidence and his self esteem, where he really needed that. He was really struggling with that. And so we saw a lot of benefit in those areas as well. Not just necessarily an executive functioning, but he was definitely practicing problem solving. And I was always he would tell me about what he's doing in these games on like, Wow, he's really on top of things in the game. And how do we sort of make that happen in real world skills which, as you said, is a lot harder. But we did see a lot of benefit, especially socially. And it would have been really easy as a parent to sort of stay in that fear of, he's gaming a lot, or he's online with people that we don't necessarily know. But I had to be more open and say, okay, but here's also the benefit that he's getting, I had to really listen to him, rather than dismiss what he was telling me. And I think that's really, really important. We have to keep an open mind around gaming. And yes, there are some negatives. And if you would like to talk about those briefly, I am happy for you to do that. As well. I think it is important that we as parents are aware of both the positives and the negatives.

Randy Kulman 24:36

I want to expand upon one of the things you said that yeah, you're really interested in I'm glad you brought this up because I neglected to do this. But I've written about this extensively. I have a Psychology Today blog, and one of the most popular ones I've written was how to get your kid to be a professional gamer. And it's got 10,000 or 20,000 hits. It's been very popular. Yeah, most kids who love gaming who say they want to be like nowadays they want to be a pro gamer, right? Like the guys who win fortnight contest unblocking on the kid's name, the 16 year old won like $3 million. Wow, most of those kids are not going to be able to do that. Right now, I would say the chances of them doing that, well, they're less than being able to be a professional football player. However, just like most kids who play high school football will never be a professional football player. Some of those kids may end up in this field, the sports industry. Well guess what is an even faster growing sports industry. It's the video game. Yeah, the sports industry. I mean, eSports is incredibly huge. And the vast majority of jobs there are going to be like in running a professional club, they're going to be management jobs, they're going to be media jobs, they're going to be health related jobs. They I mean, there's so many jobs, if you think about any college, or professional basketball or football team, they have all these other people who work there.

Guess what? Kids who love gaming are going to have all these opportunities, because that's going to be one of the ways for them to I mean, we're talking about 1000s, if not millions of jobs that are opening up, actually, the data suggests that sometime in 2022, there's going to be more spectators for Esports in the world than there are for other kinds of sports. Wow, how crazy is that? Yeah. Okay, so. So all those jobs there are incredible. And, by the way, over 200 colleges now have Esports teams. So there's an organization called nice and a C II. So if a kid who wants to go to college, and you're trying to drive this kid towards college, and they're thinking about it, and they know, hey, one of the reasons to get into this college and work hard is because you can get on to one of the Esports teams, you can look this organization up, and it's just growing and growing and growing.

Penny Williams 26:39

I had no idea.

Randy Kulman 26:41

It's remarkable. It is just remarkable. Now, on the other hand, you can really overdo it. Games and technologies in general are addictive. Okay, we already know that kids and adults with ADHD, autism spectrum size, are more prone towards substance abuse and addiction kinds of issues. That's the nature of the disorders. And that can be highly problematic. So we really need to pay more attention to these kids than others. Now, part of that, and part of what I think is really important to recognize is that it's not just in the kids, it's in the technology. I just finished a new book came out about a year ago, just a book for teenagers got gaming overload workbook, it's on Amazon, if anybody wants to find it, they can find it under my name, Kulman, k-u-l-m-a-n. But what I read about in that book is I write to teenagers saying to them, Hey, you know what gaming is great, doing all this stuff is fantastic. You can move some executive skills, you can socialize with your friends, you can learn some problem solving stuff, you can do all kinds of stuff. But recognize when too much is too much. And one of the reasons that too much is too much is because the companies out there have made it so that you can't let go of that stuff. And teenagers know this, about 55% of teenagers will say, I spent too much time on my phone, they actually acknowledged it. Yeah, there's a guy by the name of Adam, all two who wrote this great book called irresistible, and he identifies these different characteristics of technology, for example, there are no ending points. So think about when you watch Netflix, and you're watching a show. And then it used to be I think, 10 or 15 seconds. Now it's five seconds later, I believe that the next one is really up there for you and you're ready to watch it. You know, many things have what we call variable reinforcement.

So if you're on social media, and you post something, you don't always get a response. And you don't always get it immediately. And so you keep looking and you keep coming back to it because you're waiting to see if anybody's responding Do they like it? Those kinds of things. So there's those components. I mean, the multimedia piece of it is incredibly powerful. So what's happened is that Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, they're always smarter than the rest of us. They know how to keep you on their screens, because that's how they make their money. And I think that when we can talk to kids about that sometimes kids actually kind of say, Yeah, I don't like it when someone's suddenly controlling me like that I actually hits with teenagers, teenagers will hear that from you. Younger kids may not quite understand that. And for me, the solution to this is to start as early as you can with what I call a healthy play diet. How do we teach kids? Again, I'm interested in play to have a healthy and balanced play that where they have lots of social play, they have lots of physical play, they have some creative play, they have some unstructured play, where they're not doing anything particular, but just sort of kind of there. And then digital play. How do we find a balance for that? That's not easy, because the digital plays oftentimes far more attractive and interesting. Parents need to work really hard about this.

They need to model it themselves. They need to have very clear expectations. I mean, they need to show it to I mean, they need to have other things besides being on the phone, by the way. Adults are on the phones as much as teenagers. Yeah, most adults don't want to acknowledge that. But that's what the data says from Common Sense Media. That's exactly what's going on. And you need to figure out ways to make that other kind of play more attractive. You got to be willing to spend the money you got to be willing to spend the time you Gotta go. Instead of saying it's a nice day go outside, you say, we're going for a hike today and you get in the car and you go hiking, and then you go out and get some pizza, and you make it a good time. And you're gonna invite the friends over to do those kinds of things. So you've got to really work hard to have a healthy balance played out. If you start earlier, it's easier if you recognize that for yourself. It's easy. But it is something that is really important, it's going to be really important for kids in terms of what we know about them. We know that kids with ADHD, for example, do so much better when they spend time outside, we know that all these kids do better when they get exercise. And we know that exercise is usually powerful in terms of paying attention, sustained attention and focus, and really helping with a number of executive functioning. Because if you want to help with your working memory skills, when you're trying to do some reading and comprehend something, get on an exercise bike, Don't work too hard. But get an exercise, bike and exercise. You'll actually remember more, so all these kinds of things can be things that can be helpful. And they're also things that are not necessarily game or screen related.

Penny Williams 31:02

And when I hear really is balance, balance is important.

Randy Kulman 31:05

Yeah. But making that balance is not easy. Today's world. I mean, now it's as I'm speaking to you right now, I have three screens on my desk, right? I do. Okay, I have three screens at my desk.

Penny Williams 31:18

It's part of our world. But yeah, so it's really hard to be balanced, right? With how much time we're spending digitally. But it's super, super important, too. And I think, when we focused on helping our kids with that balance, then we're helping ourselves with that balance, too. Right. Like, sometimes it's not something we would necessarily go out of our way to do for ourselves. But if we have to do it for our kids, now we're doing it for ourselves also. So there's that extra benefit to good point.

Randy Kulman 31:47

Very good point.

Penny Williams 31:47

Thank you. Yeah, I know, we can talk all day, and probably for many days about electronics and gaming and kids with ADHD. And we are already coming to the end of our time together. So I just want to make sure that you have shared everything that you wanted to share. Was there anything else that you wanted to make sure we talked about before we close?

Randy Kulman 32:09

Hmm, let's see. Well, I would say that one thing that's I think, really important in today's world is that, again, I want to emphasize this point, that is that parents talk to their kids about what they're doing with it technology that they ask them about, that they participate with it, that they get the kids to think about what they're doing, because I think if they even just talk about what they're doing, that's fun, they tend to be more willing to talk to you about when they're overdoing it. If they feel as if their parents are interested in what they're doing, except what they're doing, then they have a chance to really talk about that. Yeah, I would say one last thing that we didn't touch on at all. And this really could be something that would be a whole sort of separate thought about this is we've been talking primarily about video games.

Another way to look at this is that many of the kids who have executive functioning issues benefit from the use of different kinds of apps and productivity kinds of tools that essentially support weak skills. Yeah. So when we talk about kids who have problems with working memory, thinking about what are the tools that work best for them? When we think about kids who have problems with kind of organizing their thoughts, how can we help them to use say, for example, a tool like dictation to do that kind of stuff. And that's a whole other realm that I've been working on in my office in terms of individual recommendations to kids and families. And we're working on that in terms of some executive function coaching that we're doing. But that's something we're trying to build into our websites as well right now, because I think that's important. I do want to say to you that I have a free gift for people as well. Yeah. So if the kids like Roblox, what we have is on our LW four k.com site, so LW four k.com, they can just search for games. But if they click on any of the Roblox games, and they go to the checkout, and they just use the code, podcasts04. And they can get one of our courses where the kids play Roblox. And they kind of learn some skills while they're doing that for free. Nice. So it's a way for them to kind of go there, check it out, try it out, and the kids are gonna have fun. And they're gonna learn something.

Penny Williams 34:11

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And I always learned something from you. Every time we talk, I enjoy it so much. And you're such a wealth of knowledge. And I love that you're meeting kids where they are, and helping them through that. And it's really powerful and a little bit magical, I would say, as well. So I love the work that you're doing. I am working on now. Every time we close a podcast for our guests to give one action item for parents. What is one thing they can do after they listen to this episode that could help their kids?

Randy Kulman 34:47

Well, I think I might just emphasize maybe as a resume for sometimes people need repetition. And so I think I would say that one action item is to make time to ask the kids what they do on on the screens, particularly about the games, have them explain to them what to do in the games because by the way, they'll use executive functioning skills. To do that they need to organize their thoughts. They need to sort of fan out what they're saying, and you utilize metacognitive skills to do that. So really ask them, What are they doing? What's it like how to solve that? Ask them questions like that. I like to say we'll make those games a little bit more digitally nutritious. And it'll also give the parents an opportunity to talk to kids about something that they want to talk about.

Penny Williams 35:26

Yeah, to show interest. Yeah, and what they're interested in. I love that. Fantastic. Well, we will link up all of the resources that you've talked about, as well as a link with the code for the free gift in the show notes for this episode. And you can find those at parentingADHDand autism.com/169 or episode 169. And with that, I thank you again, and I will see everyone on the next episode.

Randy Kulman 35:58

Thank you for having me.

Penny Williams 36:01

Thanks for joining me on the parenting ADHD podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share. And don't forget to check out my online courses, parent coaching, and Mama retreats at parentingADHDandautism.com

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Thank you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it. Have something to say, or a question to ask? Leave a comment below. I promise to answer every single one. **Also, please leave an honest review for the Beautifully Complex Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and appreciated! That's what helps me reach and help more families like yours.

I'm Penny Williams.

I help stuck and struggling parents (educators, too) make the pivots necessary to unlock success and joy for neurodivergent kids and teens, themselves, and their families. I'm honored to be part of your journey!

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Join me as I help parents, caregivers, and educators like you harness the realization that we are all beautifully complex and marvelously imperfect. Each week I deliver insights and actionable strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids — those with ADHD, autism, anxiety, learning disabilities…

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