Take a moment to think about the skills/behaviors you feel a person needs to exhibit in order to be successful (however you define success). Chances are words like organization, resilience, problem-solving, being a “go-getter”, reflect, self-control, communicating, etc. came to mind. All of this, and more, are part of a person’s executive functioning.Executive Functions (EF) are a set of brain-based abilities that control and regulate other abilities. They are skills and processes people use daily to make plans, keep track of assignments and deadlines, the ability to include past knowledge into work/discussion, evaluate ideas and reflect on work, ask for help, engage in group dynamics, wait their turn, etc. If you hear an educator or therapist using the umbrella term of EF, she is probably talking about one or more of the following:
Inhibition – Ability to stop one’s behavior at the appropriate time, including stopping actions and thoughts.Shift – Ability to move freely from one situation to another and to think flexibly in order to respond appropriately to the situation.
Emotional Control – The ability to modulate emotional responses by bringing rationale thought to bear on feelings.
Initiation – The ability to begin a task or activity and to independently generate ideas, responses, or problem-solving strategies.
Working Memory – The capacity to hold information in mind for the purpose of completing a task.
Planning and Organization – The ability to manage current and future oriented task demands.
Self-Monitoring – The ability to monitor one’s own performance and to measure it against some standard of what is needed or expected.
For some individuals, these abilities develop naturally by watching others and learning from experience. Others may experience challenges in acquiring these skills which may bring academic, social, and/or emotional difficulties.
If you are concerned that your child is struggling with their executive functioning, please know that these skills can be developed. A key role of my work as a school counselor was to support students in developing these skills. I continue to do this work as a resident in counseling with The Wise Family and I am always happy to connect with families and talk to delve deeper into this topic.
Until next week, Be Wise!