Written by Kimberlee – Occupational Therapist.
It’s a term that people have often heard before, and they may think that it sounds important…. but they are not too sure what it fully entails. Hopefully this post will help you get a better understanding about what executive functioning is and what it might look like in a child who has some difficulties in this area.
Executive functioning (EF) skills involve many cognitive (or thinking) components/processes that allow a person to maintain a calm and focused regulated state and have self-direction in their daily activities.
EF’s assist us to;
- maintain attention,
- evaluating our own behaviour and self reflecting
- process information
- plan, organise, make decisions,
- shift between our thoughts or situations (multi-tasking),
- control our impulsivity and emotions,
- help us learn from past mistakes or make corrections when things don’t go to plan.
- Time management
OT Toolbox blog have perfectly summarised EF: “Executive functioning skills operate like the CEO of our brain and body.”
Children who have difficulties with their executive functioning skills often struggle to regulate their behaviour and emotions, and find it challenging to organise their actions and thoughts so they can accomplish their everyday activities. EF difficulties often present in children with Autism or ADHD but any child can exhibit difficulties in these areas at any time throughout their schooling as the demands increase through the years.
For example: A child may appear to be very disorganised, they may often lose their personal items such as their school jumper, their school bag or homework books, and they often struggle to follow multi step instructions e.g go upstairs, get your shoes and put them on.
Other areas children with executive functioning difficulties may struggle with include:
- Frequently interrupts others
- Takes toys or school equipment from others without asking – impulsivity
- Can not wait for their turn
- Can not plan, organise or start activities (homework or assignments)
- Forgets where they put their personal items
- Struggles with changes to their routines
- Poor safety awareness
- Behaviours such as hitting, pushing and biting
- Struggles to stay on task
- Struggles to plan out multi-step tasks
EF difficulties are generally assessed by a psychologist or school counsellor but Occupational Therapist’s like us at Kool KATTS are ready to help!
As Paediatric Occupational Therapists we have many different strategies and evidence based interventions we can implement to help your child with their executive functioning skills. Some strategies we can use to assist with executive functioning include:
- visual aids
- Providing both verbal and written instructions
- creating checklists or to do lists
- creating planners to keep track of long term assessment/projects
- providing rationales when learning new tasks
- outlining steps before completing a task
- Establish routines at home and at school
If you would like to find out more about how we can help, please contact via our phone number or email.