What is Executive Functioning?

Executive Functioning is complex and often misunderstood.  Without a firm understanding of what Executive Functioning is, when a student is struggling with executive functioning, parents and professionals may assume the student is unmotivated, careless, resistant to help, etc.  This could not be further from the truth! Children struggling with EF are working very hard to plan and carry out tasks. Executive functioning is one of the five foundations and an area that includes many skills that impact daily life, success in school, etc.  While most professionals would agree that Executive Functioning includes planning and organization, there are other aspects that are not as widely known that play a huge role.

 

The eight main components of Executive Function are:  

 

Inhibition:  This is the ability to remain with a task.

Example:  A child who needs support with inhibition might walk away from their task to go touch something across the room, talk to a friend, etc.  

 

Shift:  This is the ability to start one task and switch to another.   

Example:  The teacher tells students to write a short answer.  As the students are writing, she calls on one student to read what they have so far to the class.  The child has to stop writing, and begin reading aloud. This requires shifting attention quickly.

 

Emotional Control:  This is the ability to regulate and modulate one’s emotions.  

Example:  As a student is working, another student is doing something annoying.  The student is becoming increasingly frustrated and is unable to work on his task.  

 

Initiation:  Initiation is the ability to start a task.  For example, a child who appears to resist beginning their work could be having difficulty with initiation.  

Example:  The teacher is working with a small group as the other students are to complete an assignment written on the board.  The student does not begin and is staring at the assignment on the board for a long period of time without starting.

 

Working Memory: Working memory is the ability to remember all the information to complete a task.  

Example:  The teacher has asked students to recall steps to an experiment that were taught the day prior.  

 

Planning:  Planning is the ability to picture and sequence all of the steps necessary to complete a task.  

Example:  A student is asked to pack all of his things, get his coat and line up.  He needs to develop a plan and sequence the steps in order to carry out the action.  

 

Organization:  This is the ability to organize the materials, steps, thoughts, and people necessary to complete a task.  

Example:  A student wants to ask a friend to play jump rope and needs to collect her friend, a jump rope and a space to play.  

 

Self-Monitoring:  Self-Monitoring is the ability to reflect on how a task is going both procedurally and emotionally as it is occuring.  

Example:  A student is taking a test and needs to monitor his focus and anxiety in order to complete the test.  

 

In our upcoming Parent webinar series, you will be able to learn more about how to design supports and accommodations in these areas!