Use Social Media to Help Clients Practice Sorting and Summarizing Here’s how to adapt Twitter, Facebook and other social media to meet your client’s executive function needs. Get Social
Get Social  |   May 01, 2015
Use Social Media to Help Clients Practice Sorting and Summarizing
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Telepractice & Computer-Based Approaches / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Get Social
Get Social   |   May 01, 2015
Use Social Media to Help Clients Practice Sorting and Summarizing
The ASHA Leader, May 2015, Vol. 20, online only. doi:10.1044/
The ASHA Leader, May 2015, Vol. 20, online only. doi:10.1044/
In today’s world, social media are embraced by young and old—whether to connect with friends or watch their families grow. But for those with executive-function difficulties, social media can be overwhelming. Information is disseminated quickly but not quite efficiently. Social media feeds are filled with pictures, ads, urban legends and content the platform decides you want to see. But you can teach your clients to tame social media and learn new skills while they do it.
Here’s how to optimize three popular social media platforms for clients experiencing executive function challenges.
Even for those without executive-function difficulties, Facebook can be a “time suck.” It’s easy to get distracted reading the feed, browsing linked articles and perusing posts from the people and pages one “follows.” What’s more, Facebook has decided what a user wants to read and would rather not see. This means users end up browsing through a lot of “noise.” For clients with executive-function difficulties, this is a real struggle!
However, organizing Facebook can be a motivating task for sessions and a great way to exercise those executive-function skills. The first thing to do with clients is set up lists for their “friends.” A list allows them to group individuals and then select a specific list to browse. The task of dividing up their Facebook “friends” exercises working memory, sustained attention, planning, organization, goal-directed persistence and flexibility.
After making lists, turn off all “group notifications” to keep random group posts from popping up in feeds. This helps clients stay focused and not become overwhelmed! If they are looking for information or camaraderie in a specific group, then they make the decision to purposefully go to that group page and read or chat.
Once everyone is divvied up and all notifications are organized, have fun seeing how long it takes to browse each group. Send home a worksheet to help clients estimate how long they will spend on Facebook and what lists or groups they want to browse, and then calculate actual time spent.
Twitter has quite a few productive applications for treatment of executive-function difficulties. A brief introduction: First, there is a 140-character limit to messages, called “tweets.” You can “follow” people and they can “follow” you in return. Hashtags (#) are used to connect with others on similar topics.
Again, cleaning up the Twitter feed is key for a user with executive function challenges. Twitter allows you to create lists just like Facebook. Spend time “unfollowing” individuals and companies that don’t apply to your clients’ current needs or interests. This process works on prioritizing, organization, time management and metacognition. After doing it a few times with them, assign social media clean up homework every few months. Clients then continue to exercise the skills learned during sessions plus goal-directed persistence and task initiation.
In addition, clients use prioritizing, organization and flexibility skills to fit messages within the 140-character limit. When you work on “clear messages” in sessions, have clients practice summarizing their message into 140 characters (whether or not they use Twitter). This helps them recognize unnecessary words, identify key words and focus on their key points when communicating with others. Have school-age clients also use this limit when summarizing material they’ve read or papers they are writing. It helps them (and you) identify if they are getting the big picture.
Hashtags are used to categorize and emphasize messages on Twitter and other social media platforms (such as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram). Hashtags consist of a pound symbol followed by a string of characters. For example, the hashtag for the speech-language pathology community on Twitter is #slpeeps. When tweeting about topics related to speech-language pathologists, people end their message with this hashtag so that other SLPs will see it. Hashtags also add important information to a message—for example #sarcasm #badday or #kidding. In treatment sessions, practice metacognition by applying hashtags to reading material, video clips and the like. Find hashtags that can connect clients with others who share their interests and create new lists around those hashtags.
Pinterest is a fascinating social media platform that doesn’t exactly follow the same rules as Facebook and Twitter. On Pinterest, people “pin” (or save) images to a variety of digital bulletin boards. Although there is an option for social engagement through “likes” and “comments,” engagement primarily happens from viewing others’ pins and repinning them to your own board.
I suggest using Pinterest differently than other platforms in executive-function treatment. Sort boards by types of pins for a great way to practice “chunking” information, planning/prioritizing and organization. For clients who really enjoy pinning, ask them to place all of their pins into a board titled “sort later.” Then spend time practicing key executive-function strategies by sorting them together.
Create a “group” board for you, your client and/or their family where everyone in the group can pin. Use the board to save visual strategies that work, infographics you’re discussing in sessions, step-by-step visual instructions, articles that apply to treatment and more. You then have quick access to the strategies/techniques on the go and across environments. Family members love being able to pull up tips on their phone during homework or when explaining something to other professionals involved in your client’s care.
These are just a few of the ways you can use social media to support clients with executive-function difficulties. The wonderful world of social media constantly changes and develops. And our clients work to adapt—but they need our help. By pulling social media into the treatment space, we can create an engaging session that is immediately useful and initiates discussions on important topics such as cyber-bullying, shame, scams and more. Don’t miss this opportunity to bring your executive-function approaches into the client’s everyday world.
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May 2015
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