Issues with executive functioning can impact kids at home, at school, and in life in general. How can you tell if your child is experiencing executive dysfunction?

Executive Functioning

The brain is a hub for information input and output. It is constantly filtering information and stimuli from the environment. Executive functioning skills are the cognitive tools our brains use to organize this information, such as thinking, planning, problem solving, focusing, and learning. There are three main areas of brain functioning that contribute to these skills: working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control. We are using executive functioning skills all the time, often without even realizing it. It’s no surprise that these mental processes influence our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, which includes the ability to make positive and healthy choices. This is why it is important to acknowledge and address any issues with executive functioning (aka executive dysfunction).

What is Executive Function Disorder?

Executive function disorder is not officially recognized as a diagnosis, however it is often used to refer to executive functioning issues. Executive dysfunction in kids might look like trouble organizing thoughts and ideas, remembering things just learned, shifting attention, or difficulty regulating emotions. Often, there are underlying conditions that contribute to a child’s executive dysfunction. For example, kids with ADHD or learning disabilities can have a hard time with these skills. Even though EFD is not an official diagnosis, a specialist, such as a child psychologist, can administer assessments to help determine your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child provides a helpful guide about executive function here.

Helping Kids with Executive Dysfunction

If your child is having issues with executive functioning, it’s important to intervene as early as possible. With the right support, kids can hone their executive functioning skills and develop strategies to compensate for any ongoing difficulties. There are a variety of treatment options and specialists that can help children with their executive dysfunction. It depends on what areas your child needs help with. Having a conversation with your child’s pediatrician is a great place to start. Issues with executive functioning may also impact kids’ learning at school. In this case, partnering with your child’s teachers and school professionals is pivotal to their success. Educational plans, such as an IEP or 504, can be put into place to ensure your child is receiving the help they need.