Speech, Occupational, Physical Therapy and Social Work

Executive Function

Does your child answer questions off-topic?
Does your child struggle with completing tasks?
Does your child have trouble following multi-step directions?

  • Executive functions are a set of mental skills that are important in learning. They are housed in the frontal lobe of the brain which is our “action center.”  
  • We use our executive function skills to manage our thoughts, emotions, and attention in order to get things done.  
  • These skills are developed throughout life but they emerge rapidly during the preschool years.  
  • Strong executive function skills help us in every aspect of life and learning. 
Executive Function

There are three main areas of executive function:

  1. Working Memory: 
    • Holding onto information long enough to use it but not “storing it” in your brain as learned information.
      • Example: When you’re reading a book and you put it down for a couple of days you are able to use your working memory to remember the characters. If you put the book down for 2 months you likely won’t remember what is going on and will need to re-read.
      • Example: In conversations, we hold onto information long enough to ask a related question or comment on the topic. 

2. Cognitive Flexibility: 

    • Our ability to solve a problem in more than one way and our ability to transition between thinking about one thing to the next. Without cognitive flexibility, we cannot problem solve because our brain won’t allow us to consider other options.

3. Inhibitory Control:

    • Our ability to tune out distractions and focus on the task at hand. Kids with ADHD have difficulty with Inhibitory control. 

These three things, when working together, enable us to:

  • Pay attention
  • Organize and plan
  • Initiate tasks and stay focused on them
  • Regulate emotions
  • Keep track of what we’re doing

TherapyWorks favorite resources for executive function:

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