What Is Executive Function?
Executive function encompasses the fundamental skills which dictate child behavior. More specifically, executive function includes the following:
- Time management
- Task Initiation
- Working Memory
The development of these skills begins in childhood and continues into the mid-20s. This means that children may express challenges with executive functioning differently during each stage of life. Anger, isolation and forgetfulness are often witnessed as students struggle to make sense of seemingly simple tasks.
Individuals with specific learning disabilities do not always struggle with executive functioning, and individuals who show signs of executive functioning issues do not always have a disorder. This makes finding the root of symptoms challenging, whether it be a disorder or a weakness.
The Manifestation of Executive Functioning Issues
At each age, weaknesses in executive functioning may manifest themselves differently. For example, the child who has frequent tantrums in preschool may appear unmotivated or noncommittal by high school.
We all need reminders to be more organized or to improve time management from time to time, but the student who is unable to initiate a plan for completing a project and seeing it through to completion will need purposeful assistance.
Identifying Executive Functioning Issues
If you think your child is struggling with executive functioning, you may want to seek an evaluation with an educational psychologist. Comprehensive testing will reveal what areas the student is struggling and what the causes are.
It is always my goal to equip parents with as much insight as possible. Through testing, I elucidate an individual’s unique strengths and weaknesses. I also work with the individual to replace their negative behaviors and habits with positive ones.
After testing, an executive functioning specialist, such as my colleague Steve Steinberg, can work with students to gain organizational, time-management and study skills. He provides students new personalized ways to learn and study that utilize their strengths and play off of their weaknesses.
How You Can Help Your Child
Aside from getting your child professional help, there are plenty of activities and strategies you can use to inspire the development of executive functions in your little ones. Providing a visual schedule and establishing consistent methods of organization for backpacks are recommended.
It is also important to teach your kids to pause before responding to a situation. This gives them time to practice awareness of what’s going on around them and to recognize their own thoughts and emotions.
Many parents of kids with executive functioning issues find that they have similar struggles. For this reason, it is important to be aware of the example you are setting. Practice the concepts you teach.
I would love to discuss executive functioning with you. If you are interested, please contact me. We will help your child build a strong foundation for their future.