Executive Function Difficulties

What is Executive Functioning?

While there are a number of definitions of Executive Functioning (EF) in the research literature today, the majority of the most well-researched theories describe EF as an umbrella term for the management, regulation, and control of cognitive processes, behavior, and emotion.  By most definitions, these skills include:

  • Impulse Control:  the ability to stop and think before acting

  • Emotional Control:  the ability to manage feelings by thinking about goals

  • Planning / Prioritizing:  the ability to create steps to reach a goal and to make decisions about what to focus on

  • Flexibility:  the ability to change strategies or revise plans when conditions change

  • Working Memory:  the ability to hold information in mind and use it to complete a task

  • Self-Monitoring:  the ability to monitor and evaluate your own performance

  • Task Initiation:  the ability to recognize when it is time to get started on something and begin without procrastinating

  • Organization:  the ability to create and maintain systems to keep track of information and materials

While it may seem like this list encompasses all human behavior, it may be easiest to think of EF as the ability to successfully engage in independent, goal-directed behavior.

Does your child have Executive Function Difficulties?

Executive skills develop gradually and at different rates for different people.  Most children struggle at one time or another with planning, organization, and follow-through.  The best way to determine if your child has EF weaknesses that would benefit from assessment and coaching is by answering the following questions:

  • Is your child falling behind at school as demands for independent self-management increase?

  • Does your child seem like they are constantly "winging it," without a strategy or plan of attack?

  • Does your child feel overloaded and overwhelmed more often than not?

  • Do they seem inattentive, exhausted, and feel insecure about their ability to manage their homework?

If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, your child could benefit from EF assessment and coaching. Complete the EF Checklist to help you recognize Executive Function difficulties in your child.

Executive Function Assessment

Based on the research, the most accurate assessment of an individual's Executive Function skills is typically conducted using multi-informant rating scales.  However, direct measures of EF skills can be included in an assessment as the situation demands.  Assessment decisions are made on a case-by-case basis based on each child's unique profile.