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OTS 148: Executive Function's Role in Sensory Regulation

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Welcome to the show notes for Episode 148 of the OT Schoolhouse Podcast.

How do children’s brains manage the interplay between self-regulation and executive functioning tasks? 

In this episode, join Lindy Joffe, OTD, OTR/L as she discusses the interconnectedness between sensory and executive function. She will offer insight into the clinical observations that can unlock a better understanding of student behaviors and learn actionable strategies to empower our children as co-learners in their educational journey. 

Tune in to understand the connection with executive functions and sensory regulation within school-based occupational therapy!

Listen now to learn the following objectives:

  • Learners will identify the relationship between child behavior, environment, and factors contributing to executive functioning

  • Learners will understand how to empower the children as co learners and use interventions to reflect their unique needs

  • Learners will identify practical assessment tools to use for executive functioning

Guest Bio

Lindy Joffe is a pediatric occupational therapist with 24 years of experience specializing in the integration of executive function and sensory regulation. She is fascinated by how the motor, sensory, perceptual, and reflex systems interact with executive functioning to propel resilience in problem-solving. Lindy received her OTD from Boston University in 2022 and MSOT from Columbia University in 1999. She is committed to translating complex concepts to people from different backgrounds and has taught CE courses locally and nationally. When not working, Lindy spends time with her partner, children, dog, and friends. She loves running, hiking, biking, and tai chi, and is learning to play the bassoon.


“There's lots of different components that people talk about as the executive functions, but the three primary ones that everybody agrees are a part of it are working memory, inhibition…and shift, which is the ability to move from one thing to another.”

-Lindy Joffe OTD, OTR/L

“I come in as, essentially a mirror to them and as a co-regulator and as a co-learner. And so they are essentially in the driver's seat in terms of the problem solving challenges that I give them.”

-Lindy Joffe OTD, OTR/L

“Jack of all trades, master of none. And I think that kind of encompasses what our society does… As OTs, we are the master of putting all these things together and understanding what's happening in these kids' systems.”

-Lindy Joffe OTD, OTR/L

“We need to notice the errors to fix the errors to build executive function, they are the ones who really need to notice what's going on, and fix it, and reflect back on the challenges.”

-Lindy Joffe OTD, OTR/L

“The second primary construct is, the idea of them having productive struggles.”

-Lindy Joffe OTD, OTR/L

“Best analogy that I've ever heard for executive function…is that it is the air traffic controller of the brain.”

-Lindy Joffe OTD, OTR/L

“I think everyone needs to be working on executive functioning. They need to have an idea and an understanding of what it is so that we can all address it from our own angle. But I think as OTs, we can't be scared of it.”

-Jayson Davies, MA, OTR/L




Additional References

  • Barbas, H., Zikopoulos, B., & Timbie, C. (2011). Sensory pathways and emotional context for action in primate prefrontal cortex. Biological psychiatry69(12), 1133–1139.

  • Funahashi, S., & Andreau, J. M. (2013). Prefrontal cortex and neural mechanisms of executive function. Journal of Physiology-Paris, 107(6), 471-482.

  • Gilbert, C., Li, W. Top-down influences on visual processing. Nat Rev Neurosci 14, 350–363 (2013).

  • McCarthy, B., Datta, S., Sesa-Ashton, G., Wong, R., Henderson, L. A., Dawood, T., & Macefield, V. G. (2023). Top-down control of vestibular inputs by the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Experimental brain research241(11-12), 2845–2853.

  • Nakajima, M., Schmitt, L. I., & Halassa, M. M. (2019). Prefrontal Cortex Regulates Sensory Filtering through a Basal Ganglia-to-Thalamus Pathway. Neuron, 103(3), 445–458.e10.

  • Romo, R., & de Lafuente, V. (2013). Conversion of sensory signals into perceptual decisions. Progress in neurobiology103, 41–75.

  • Skirzewski M., Molotchnikoff S., Hernandez L.F.., Maya-Vetencourt J.F.. (2022). Multisensory integration: Is medial prefrontal cortex signaling relevant for the treatment of higher-order visual dysfunctions?  . Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, 14

  • Takeuchi, H., Taki, Y., Sassa, Y., Hashizume, H., Sekiguchi, A., Fukushima, A., & Kawashima, R. (2013). Brain structures associated with executive functions during everyday events in a non-clinical sample. Brain structure & function218(4), 1017–1032.

  • Zelazo, P. D. (2015). Executive function: Reflection, iterative reprocessing, complexity, and the developing brain. Developmental Review, 38, 55-68.

Episode Transcript

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Click on the file below to download the transcript to your device.

Download PDF • 169KB

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