Executive functioning, what is it and why do we need to know

He is just lazy.  He is never paying attention in class. She has papers everywhere and is always losing things! Those emotions just don't match the situation.

Ever have (or is working with) a child that you thought those exact thing? Chances are they have an executive function disorder (think of those children with sensory needs, autism or adhd).

Executive funcitoning in student lives. What are they?
1. Organization
2. Planning
3. Time management
4. Working memory
5. Attention
6. Flexible thinking
7. Emotional regulation
8. Initiation
(9. some think self-awareness is one as well)

Tasks will be more difficult for our students who are weaker or are lacking any of these skills.
Tasks also will be more difficult when they are: newer, more complex and long-term

How can you help? This is a 2 step process. You need to work on the emotions and the skills.

Emotions: Address emotional concerns and provide a nurturing and supportive environment (nagging and getting upset because the student lost that assignment is going to help here!)

Skills: Everything is a skill mindset. Engage, work, and focus on developing the executive functioning skills that need attention and provide structure with short-term goals.

Other areas that also need to be part of building and learning executive functioning skills are:
Being process-focused (not outcome focused)
Sleep, diet and exercise need to be regulated (though those can be out of our control)
and knowing that growth is a long process, this isn't going to happen in a month or may be even in a year, this can take a long time.

Your goal is to make the task less new, less complex and less long term. Provide short term goals and work on modeling self-evaluation, they need to be part of the process.

Until next time,


  1. I love this! Thanks so much for spelling it out so clearly. I would love to use this in our school newsletter-with proper credit to you of course! Would that be okay with you?

  2. Absolutely! Share away and thank you for stopping by and reading it! Lisa


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