Some students with Attention Disorders or on the Autism Spectrum often lack Executive Function Skills. These skills help us plan, organize, make decisions, shift between situations or thoughts, control our emotions and impulsivity, and learn from past mistakes. That means they have difficulties with analyzing, planning and organizing. Here are some definitions related to executive function:
The capacity to think before you act – the ability to resist the urge to say or do something allows us the time to evaluate a situation and how behavior might impact it.
The ability to hold information in memory while carrying out complex tasks. It combines the ability to draw on past learning or experience to apply to the current situation or to project into the future.
The ability to manage emotions in order to achieve goals, complete tasks, or control and direct behavior.
The ability to revise plans in the face of obstacles, setbacks, new information or mistakes. It relates to being able to adapt to changing conditions.
The capacity to maintain attention to a situation or task in spite of distractibility, fatigue, or boredom.
The ability to begin projects without procrastination, in a timely fashion.
The ability to create and maintain systems to keep track of information or materials.
The capacity to estimate how much time one has, how to allocate it, and how to stay within time limits and deadlines. It also involves a sense that time is important.
The capacity to have a goal, follow through to the completion of it and not be put off or distracted by competing interests.
The ability to stand back and take a birds-eye view of oneself in a situation. It is an ability to observe how you problem solve. It also includes self-monitoring/evaluative skills (Asking yourself, “How am I doing?” or “How did I do?”).
For more information and strategies to help your child learn Executive Functioning skills, see PIC’s brochure Executive Functioning Skills and the tutorial “3 Key Strategies for Managing Your Child with Executive Function Skills Weaknesses”.