Executive Functioning

Executive Functioning affects students daily in organization not only to get ready for school, plan for tests, but even in the organization of paragraphs when writing essays. As the website Smart Kids with LD states, “Executive functions are the cognitive abilities that control and regulate most of what we do in day-to-day life. Executive functions include the ability to initiate, plan and organize, set goals, solve problems, regulate emotions, and monitor behavior. Because these skills play a role in all most aspects of life, Executive Function deficits can hamper a child academically, socially and emotionally. While they are present from an early age, problems with Executive Functions often do not become apparent until middle school, when the demands for working independently increase”.

Executive functions are part of the frontal lobe of the brain and affects students in the following areas:

  • The ability to manage time
  • The ability to organize
  • The ability to focus
  • The ability to remember key information
  • The ability to control impulsive speech
  • The ability to make connections between the past and present

Most individuals with executive functioning disorder fall into one of two categories: organizing and regulating. Those who have trouble organizing may have difficulty following a schedule, completing the steps of a procedure in the proper order or even develop a plan for completing work. Those who have trouble with regulating have difficulty adjusting to changes to a plan, analyze the details involved in a situation, communicating effectively or even initiating tasks and coming up with ideas on their own.

Children with executive functioning disorder are typically diagnosed once they enter school. Treatment focuses on monitoring behaviors, record keeping and teaching children ways to compensate for the issues they struggle with. Having checklists, schedules and other organization techniques in place can help children who have trouble with the executive functions related to organization. Having a mentor, regular conferences with a teacher and journaling to identify problems.

As the brain begins to make connections, the symptoms of executive processing disorder may decrease. Parents and teachers can introduce exercises, routines and conversations to increase those connections.

Today many of the assistive technology that is available is helpful for students and their organization. These things include timers on their cell phone, photos taken of homework assignments, and even the laptop in general to help save needed work.