The concept of “body doubling” may be new to you. It was unfamiliar to me until last year, despite over five years of working with students with ADHD or executive dysfunction. Body doubling is defined as working on a task in the presence of someone else, either in-person or virtually. The term itself has gained popularity over the past few years even though many individuals unknowingly utilized it as a strategy well before then. To determine what makes body doubling so effective, I conducted research and reached out to adult friends with ADHD. For some it’s the slight but manageable increase in pressure to initiate and complete a task, while for others it’s having a calm and focused individual to emulate. During the past academic year, I included body doubling in my executive function coaching sessions, and it quickly became an important tool for my clients. Further, I was surprised to discover that there are zero programs that offer body doubling exclusively for students. ADHD Actually provides a service for 18+ and The ADHD Enclave has programs specific to women. Because I have witnessed such success with my students, I have decided to launch my own service called It Takes Two: Body Doubling for Teens.
It Takes Two: Body Doubling for Teens provides the benefits of body doubling while also developing students’ problem solving and flexible thinking skills. If your immediate reaction is, “You’re just providing students homework help with a fancy title,” then I challenge you to consider whether you’re viewing this through what may be your own neurotypical lens. Being neurotypical, I frequently take for granted my brain’s ability to initiate a task with relative ease and problem solve through its various steps until it is complete. Doing so requires other executive functions such as: sustained attention, working memory, and emotional regulation. For those who experience executive dysfunction, this can lead to challenges both in and out of the classroom.
For example, if you’re a parent of a child with executive dysfunction, I imagine there have been a few instances in which your child has said, “I can’t complete this assignment because I don’t: have my book, have my notes, have the sheet I need, remember what this was about, etc.” Students who repeatedly do this are often labelled as “lazy,” but we need to recognize that they may experience such rigidity in thinking that they don’t even know that these are situations for which they can find a solution. Additionally, it can be easy to assume that because teens today are technologically savvy, they naturally understand how to use the internet as a tool to troubleshoot when they hit a roadblock in their assignments. Problem solving skills need to be explicitly taught to students and then reinforced.
Ultimately, I hope to provide a judgment-free zone for teens to work on these executive functions as they complete their schoolwork. Having this safe space is crucial for a vital reason: by the time they’re teens, individuals with ADHD or executive dysfunction have likely heard from parents or teachers, in explicit or coded language, that they’re “difficult,” “a slacker,” or “not living up to their potential.” What these often well-meaning adults don’t recognize is how deeply students internalize this feedback. I’ll touch on this more in a future post. For now, I’m excited to have It Takes Two: Body Doubling for Teens up and running, with sessions starting August 16th.