What are Executive Functioning Skills?

Executive Functioning

Parents are often confused when they are told that their child has deficits in his “Executive Functions.” Those seem like big words to describe the frustrations of having a child who seems more disorganized than other children; the kid who often comes to school late and unprepared and always seems to be losing his homework, shoes, or games.

Executive functions are the self-regulating skills that we use every day in order to get any task done, from getting dressed and eating breakfast to getting a backpack packed and choosing which friend to play with. They help us plan, organize, make decisions, shift between situations or thoughts, control our emotions and impulsivity, and learn from past mistakes.

Dawson and Guare (2010) describe executive functioning skills as follows:

“Human beings have a built-in capacity to meet challenges and accomplish goals through the use of high-level cognitive functions called executive skills. These are the skills that help us to decide what activities or tasks we will pay attention to and which ones we will choose to do. Executive skills allow us to organize our behavior over time and override immediate demands in favor of longer-term goals. Through the use of these skills we can plan and organize activities, sustain attention, and persist to complete a task. Executive skills enable us to manage our emotions and our thoughts in order to work more efficiently and effectively. Simply stated, these skills help us to regulate our behavior” (p.1).

Executive functioning difficulties cause children and teens to struggle with many academic learning tasks. According to Howland (2010), executive functioning skills predict academic success more effectively than tests of academic achievement or cognitive ability. Children with poor executive functioning skills are at high risk for dropping out of school, as well as for social and behavioral problems (Lindsay & Dockrell, 2012). They often have compromised listening skills and difficulties following directions, which can compromise familial relationships and academic and social functioning.

Executive functioning difficulty is not necessarily considered a disability, yet it is a weakness in a key set of mental skills that helps connect past experience with present action. People use them to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space.

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Executive Functioning: Teaching Children Organizational SkillsExecutive Functioning: Teaching Children Organizational Skills is a 4-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that will enumerate and illustrate multiple strategies and tools for helping children overcome executive functioning deficits and improve their self-esteem and organizational abilities.

Executive functioning skills represent a key set of mental assets that help connect past experience with present action. They are fundamental to performing activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space. Conversely, executive functioning deficits can significantly disrupt an individual’s ability to perform even simple tasks effectively. Although children with executive functioning difficulties may be at a disadvantage at home and at school, adults can employ many different strategies to help them succeed. Included are techniques for planning and prioritizing, managing emotions, improving communication, developing stress tolerance, building time management skills, increasing sustained attention, and boosting working memory. Course #40-42 | 2017 | 76 pages | 25 posttest questions

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Our online courses provide instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion. Click here to learn more. Have a question? Contact us. We’re here to help!

Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).

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