Why do we keep talking about Executive Functioning?
The term “executive functioning” has become a common buzzword in schools and psychology offices. This is more than just a passing fad. In fact, neuropsychologists have been studying these skills for many years. We believe that the focus on executive functioning represents a significant advancement in our
understanding of children (and adults!) and their unique profile of strengths and weaknesses. (www.ldonline.org)
What is Executive Function?
“The executive functions are a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal. It is an umbrella term for the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation.” (www.ldonline.org)
Executive function is the ability to organize and manage our thoughts, actions, and emotions in order to initiate, sustain, and complete a task. It also helps us to plan, manage and organize time.
To understand this even more, here are 6 steps your brain typically works through with good executive function skills:
1. Analyze a task. Figure out what needs to be done.
2. Plan how to handle the task.
3. Get organized. Break down the plan into a series of steps.
4. Figure out how much time is needed to carry out the plan, and set aside the time.
5. Make adjustments as needed
6. Finish the task in the time allotted.
Here are some examples:
Self-Monitoring– “I did 5 sentences, I need 2 more. Oh! I misspelled a word!! And oh! That sentence didn’t make sense. I’ll fix it.”
Working Memory– Remembering the steps to solve a math problem (like long division or multiplying fractions)
Organization– “Where do I put my work when it’s done so I can have it ready to turn in to my teacher?”
Prioritization– “This project is due Friday, but THIS assignment is due tomorrow! I need to do the one that’s due tomorrow right now and do the one that’s due on Friday in little chunks throughout the week.”
Task Initiation– “I will take out the reading passage I need to read, get a pencil, highlighter and get to work.”
Cognitive Flexibility– “I wanted to do a diorama, but my mom forgot the shoe box. I wonder how else I can show the setting from the story in a cool way?”
Focus/Attention– “I really wish I could take a break…. I’ll finish 3 questions first, then take a bathroom break.”
Inhibitory Control– “Ugh. Jeremy is trying to get me to play with him. I like him and want to play, but I really want to get this work done before my mom picks me up.”
Planning– “My math assignment won’t take me too long. So, I’ll start with the reading, then do my science and finish math quickly at the end.”