executive functioning skills

Executive Functioning

By Director

What is Executive Functioning and
How Does it Relate to Dyslexia?

Executive Functioning skills are used every day. Most of us use these skills with automaticity to work, learn and manage ourselves throughout our day to day activities. But you will not find this term in the DSM-5. Executive Function is a group of cognitive skills that include: flexible thinking, working memory, planning, self-monitoring, time management, time management and self-control. These processes occur in the frontal lobe of the brain. Executive Dysfuntion is often found in people with ADHD-Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, as inattention and/or impulsivity are closely related to Executive Dysfuntions. Executive functions are extremely important for school and job success as well as for mental and physical health.


Not all experts look at Executive Functioning the same way. But most agree that people with executive functioning challenges may have one or more of these symptoms:

o Socially inappropriate behavior
o Short-term memory challenges
o Inability to multi-task and/or balance tasks
o Difficulty with emotional control
o Challenges with initiating, organizing, completing or planning tasks
o Difficulty with impulse control

There are three main “umbrella” areas that these challenges fit under:

Working Memory

The ability to keep information in mind and apply it in some way. For example, a student might use this skill to read or listen to a text, hold the information and then apply it to answer questions.

Cognitive Flexibility

a.k.a. - Flexible Thinking - The ability to think about something in more than just one way. For example, a student might apply this skill to explore relationships between two different concepts

Inhibition Control

a.k.a. - Self-control - The ability to ignore distractions and resist temptations. For example, this skill helps a student to not call out answers in school. It also helps people regulate their emotions and refrain from acting or saying something impulsively.

Processing speed effects Executive Functioning. People go through a cognitive progress in order to quickly solve problems. Some experts say that this skill is the engine that drives how well people can access their executive functioning skills to achieve goals and solve problems.

Things to do at Home:

Executive Dysfunction CAN be improved. Many people wonder “what helps with executive dysfunction”? Things like medication, psychoeducation, speech therapy, occupational therapy and cognitive behavior therapy can be helpful.

Other excellent strategies include:

Checklists-The use of a written or pictorial checklist can help with MANY
daily life functions included a morning routine, an evening routine, and a school day
routine. They can also help with a specific task such as folding and/or putting away
laundry, setting the table and gathering supplies for a task.


First Then

App and visual schedule—a way to provide positive behavior support.


Choiceworks app

A great way to help with routines

Technology- The use of technology can be very helpful to people with
executive dysfunction. Here are some apps to try:



Both schools and families can access the student’s account to create reminders https://www.remind.com/


The Nudge

A way to remind yourself to do something https://www.nudgetext.com/



A reminder and timer app

Impulse Control

Wait 5 Strategy: Teaches children to think before acting. Students count to 5 before taking action or making a verbal response. You can create a hand signal of 5 fingers up to remind the student visually to wait 5 second before answering or responding.

Flexible Thinking

Children with rigid thinking have difficult “rolling with the punches”. They may show frustration when asked to think about something a
different way. Provide visual or verbal stimuli in a relaxed setting. For example, show a picture of a child whose dog has run off the leash. How does the dog feel? How does the child feel? Or show a picture of a parent and child when the child loses her ice-cream cone when the ice-cream slips onto the ground. How does the parent feel? How does the child feel?


Teaching ways to be organized can be fun. Use check lists,
planners, and organizational apps. Use multi-colored folders for school work. Set up a work area for homework, take a picture of it and post the picture. Have your child return the work area to how it is in the picture when they are finished for the day. Put pictures of drawer contents on drawers to help your child remember where their clothes are.


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