Executive Functioning Basics

Executive functions (EF) are a fancy way to explain our everyday problem-solving strategies. EF are self-regulated behaviors that we executive functioning girlneed in order to plan, execute and maintain activities.

Observable Executive Functioning behaviors include:

  • Initiation
  • Organization
  • Transitioning
  • Inhibition
  • Goal-setting
  • Monitoring own behavior
  • Planning
  • Sequencing information
  • Self-control

Complications in any one of these areas may create difficulties in a child’s school as well as life at home. It is not uncommon for many children to have issues in EF at some point. In fact, it is the “norm” and it is related to the child’s developing brain. EF skills begin to emerge at an early school age and continue to develop into the early 20’s. In some cases, altering the environment is all that is needed in order to help children that are weaker in these skills.

Classroom accommodations for Executive Functioning:

  • Use a visual schedule on the wall or the child’s desk to reduce difficulties with transitions
  • Break-up assignments into smaller tasks in order to help with initiation and organization of tasks
  • Develop time lines for longer-term assignments
  • Utilize check lists as well as planners in order to stay organized and set appropriate goals
  • Perform a weekly clean-up of the child’s desk and locker to keep belongings organized
  • Provide specific feedback when the child demonstrates positive use of a skill

Home accommodations for Executive Functioning:

  • A visual or written schedule can be just as effective and necessary in the home environment
  • Set and enforce routines around daily activities (e.g., getting ready in the morning, homework, bedtime, etc.)
  • Weekly organizing of book bag and work area
  • Teach goal-setting behaviors by developing a plan to work towards a desired goal (e.g., special activity, material possession, etc.)
  • Model self-calming strategies and have the child practice these strategies
  • Develop independence in daily activities by labeling drawers and encourage independent follow through
  • Provide specific positive feedback for demonstration and effort

For an Executive Functioning checklist and more on EF, click here!