Executive Function


Executive function refers to a set of cognitive skills that allow a student to plan, focus attention, follow instructions and organize themselves.  Executive function skills rely heavily on the child’s ability to self regulate and self monitor themselves.  Key components of executive function include:

Working Memory-the ability to hold information in mind for completing a task

Initiation-the ability to begin a task and independently generate ideas and strategies

Inhibitory Control-the ability to stop actions, thoughts and behaviors at the appropriate time

Shift-the ability to move and think flexibly from one situation to another

Emotional Control-the ability to modulate emotional responses

Planning-the ability to manage current future task demands

Organization of Materials-the ability to impose order on work and play materials

Self Monitoring-the ability to monitor one’s own performance against expectations

From this list, you can guess just how important these skills are for a student to be successful throughout their school career.  These skills are considered higher level skills that develop over time as your child matures.  For children that have difficulty acquiring executive function skills, the school based Occupational Therapist can provide strategies and modifications to support the student’s functioning in the classroom environment including checklists, organizational strategies and modification of materials.  These skills can also be addressed during therapy through appropriately chosen activities utilizing real life scenarios.  Executive function skills can and should be taught at home as well.  A fantastic book to read up on executive function is Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary Executive Skills Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential by Peg Dawson.