What is Executive Function?​

Many students with learning differences struggle with executive functioning. But what, exactly, does that mean?


Executive functioning involves the following skills:


1.    Monitoring oneself

2.    Being able to start and complete tasks

3.    Organization of ideas as well as materials and working/living space

4.    Planning

5.    Maintaining attention and focus

6.    Emotional regulation


For instance, an older student with solid executive function skills can follow multi-step directions and start and complete tasks independently. But those who struggle with executive function might not be able to follow more than two or three steps at a time, and frequently become distracted with starting or completing tasks.


Executive function develops in early childhood and continues to take shape throughout adolescence and into young adulthood. Our executive functioning comes fully online around age 25, though it could take longer for some students. Some students will develop skills faster than others.


Although some signs of executive function struggles match up with the list above, such as difficulty with planning or staying focused, there are also other signs that aren't as obvious, including not hearing what another has said, becoming uncomfortable or even panicky with a change in routine, and emotional swings.


If you suspect your child has executive function gaps, you can ask your pediatrician or family doctor to do an exam or evaluation. Depending on their findings, they may refer you on to a child psychologist, pediatric neuropsychologist, or learning specialist for a more comprehensive evaluation. From there, you can work with your child's teacher(s), special education department, and tutors and coaches like myself to provide assistance and instruction on how to manage and work with executive function gaps.


If you suspect your child has trouble with executive function and you'd like to discuss options for help, please let me know.