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Executive functions enable the brain to answer the questions of "What needs to be done and When?"

They are the "conductors of the mind's orchestra". For children with executive functioning deficits, tasks that require planning, prioritizing, organization, memory, time management, and flexible thinking are very challenging.

Executive skills enable the brain to answer the question of  "how?". They tell the brain how to feel, think and act effectively.

Often kids know "what" and  "when" to do something, but do not know "how" to get it done. Or they have the "how” skills to do something, but don't know what exactly needs to be done and when.

Executive functioning issues are not uncommon especially in children with ADHD, Dyslexia, and/or Autism. Executive functioning issues aren’t considered a disability on their own.

There are many different ways to help your child improve his or her executive functions. The more you learn about your child's challenges, the better you will be able to support him or her. Since every child is different, a plan to help your child will be very individualized.




If executive functioning is working well and it is a simple task, the brain usually only takes a few seconds to do all these steps above. However,  if your child has weak executive skills, performing even a simple task can be challenging. Remembering to pack math homework into the backpack may be as hard as planning tomorrow’s schedule.



Symptoms of executive functioning challenges:

Depending on which skills your child struggles with the most and the particular task he or she is doing, there can be a wide range of symptoms present:

  • Difficulty with getting started on a task

  • Can either focus on small details or the overall picture, but not both at the same time

  • Difficulty figuring out how much time a task requires

  • Works either too quickly and sloppy or too slowly and incompletely

  • Difficulty incorporating feedback into work or activity

  • Difficulty in changing plans, even if  the plan isn’t working

  • Hard time paying attention and easily distracted

  • Loses train of thought when interrupted

  • Needs to be told the directions many times

  • Difficulty making decisions

  • Difficulty transitioning from one activity to the next

  • Doesn’t always have the words to explain something in detail

  • Needs help processing sensations such as sound, visual experiences, and feelings

  • Can only think or do one thing at a time

  • Remembers information better visually

Children with well-working executive functioning skills are able to:

  • Analyze a task

  • Figure out what needs to be done

  • Plan how to handle the task

  • Get organized and break down the plan into a series of steps

  • Figure out how much time is needed to carry out the plan, and set aside the time

  • Make adjustments as needed

  • Finish the task in the time frame expected

Children with weak executive functioning skills find it difficult to:

  • Keep track of time

  • Make plans

  • Make sure work is finished on time

  • Multitask

  • Apply previously learned information to solve problems

  • Analyze ideas

  • Look for help or more information when it is needed

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