Executive Functions

Executive Functions

What are Executive Functions, and why do they matter?

What are Executive Functions? The brain controls human abilities and skills. The front portions of the brain, the frontal lobes, act as the “CEO” of this complex mechanism and as such, the duties of this area are termed Executive Functions.

“Executive Functions are a collage of cognitive activities that encompass the ability to design actions toward a goal, to handle information flexibly, to realize the ramifications of behavior, and to make reasonable inferences based upon limited information. [They are] detailed functions of logic, strategy, planning, problem solving, and reasoning.” (Keeley, The Source for Executive Function Disorders, 2003)

Executive Functions begin to develop in infancy and continue to mature into adulthood. In fact, research has shown growth and maturation well into the 20s and 30s. Therefore, all children demonstrate challenges with Executive Functions. Often times, however, normal development of the frontal lobes does not coincide with academic and social requirements creating frustration for the child, parents, and teachers. Executive Function weaknesses may manifest in:

  • Failing to write down assignments
  • Forgetting to bring materials home
  • Trouble deciding what needs to be done
  • Problems creating a sequence of tasks
  • Errors estimating how long tasks take
  • Problems beginning tasks
  • Forgetting to turn in homework
  • Being stuck on one topic or activity
  • Resistance to change
  • Losing or misplacing items and work
  • Leaving tasks until the last minute
  • Difficulty with long-term assignments
  • Problems evaluating performance
  • Inability to effectively utilizing feedback

“The good news, in short, is that we don’t have to just accept the developmental patterns of adolescent brains. We can actually shape and change them.” (WSJ “What’s Wrong With the Teenage Mind?”)

While Executive Functions will naturally enhance through experience, with further attention and specific instruction, your child can maximize his/her skills to become significantly more successful in school and life.