Executive Functioning Challenges

Executive Functioning skills, like their name implies, are those commonly used by company executives: planning; decision-making; organization; self-regulation (i.e., behaviors, activity levels, attention, emotions); task initiation, completion, and monitoring; time management; and metacognition among others. Difficulties with executive functioning skills may be observed in children and teens who have trouble following multi-step directions, keeping their belongings organized, prioritizing and completing assignments, etc. Often executive functioning difficulties become apparent around the transition from primary to late elementary school (around 3rd grade), the transition to middle school, and the transition to high school when the demands on executive functioning at school, home, and other activities increase.

Executive functioning difficulties are also features of or can be caused by other disorders such as autism, specific learning disorders, ADHD, and internalizing disorders. If a child or teen is experiencing executive functioning difficulties, a comprehensive evaluation by a trained mental health professional may be beneficial to better understand their challenges and capture their strengths. Such evaluations often include a combination of in-office testing procedures; questionnaires completed by parents, teachers, and children; and clinical observations that collect data about the child, their behavior, and the environment.

Many children benefit from explicit training in executive functioning skills, either behavioral or academic, that help them learn to self-regulate or use strategies for keeping track of their work or breaking down tasks. Evidence based strategies for supporting executive functioning skills related to emotion and behavior include learning calming techniques like mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, and using fidgets. For academics, strategies like using a planner, routine checklists for the morning and evening, and graphic organizers for writing can be helpful.

Explore the executive functioning services offered at WCP and other types of therapy provided. Other posts about ADHD can be found on the WCP blog.

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