Executive Functioning: What is it and why does it matter?


Has your child’s therapist mentioned executive functioning skills? Executive functioning is a set of skills that are in charge of working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. This group of skills includes: organization, planning, emotional and impulse control, attention, initiation of a task, problem solving, inferencing, reflection, and self-monitoring among others. When children have difficulties in these areas, it is called ‘executive dysfunction’ or ‘executive functioning disorder’. If a child has a diagnosis of ADHD, they likely have difficulties with executive function; however, a child can have executive dysfunction without having ADHD. If your child has problems with executive functioning they might demonstrate the following:

  • Remembering all items to take to school

  • Being able to remember all steps to complete a task independently (e.g. taking a shower, making a snack, getting ready in the morning, etc.)

  • Being able to start a project or homework

  • Blurting out answers in class

  • Emotional outbursts

  • Using a homework agenda

  • Shifting attention to multiple tasks without follow through

  • Difficulty figuring out how to solve a problem or coming up with an alternative solution

  • Lack of social awareness

If a child has an executive functioning disorder, this does NOT mean they aren’t smart or are unmotivated. These skills can affect school work and social interactions with peers. A child with executive functioning disorder may have difficulty retelling stories or completing book reports/essays in a clear and sequential order. Lack of flexible thinking may inhibit a child from seeing things from another person’s perspective or understanding how their actions affect others. Difficulties with self-monitoring and attention may affect reading or listening comprehension. This might also affect a child’s ability to make predictions, infer, and figure out unknown vocabulary by using context clues. If your child demonstrates some of these difficulties, talk with your child’s therapist about ways to help improve these skills at home and school or check out the following links.


Resources:

https://integratedchildrens.com/executive-function-skills-language/

https://www.understood.org/articles/en/types-of-executive-function-skills


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