Executive Function Skills
Planning & Prioritizing
What Is Executive Functioning?
Executive functioning describes those skills everyone uses to organize and act on information. The brain needs executive function skills to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses.
Executive function skills gradually develop and change over our lifespans, and we can take steps at any time to improve them.
These skills are crucial for learning and development. They also lead to positive behavior and allow us to make healthy choices for ourselves and our families. However, when students have deficiencies in certain areas of executive functioning, they may exhibit academic, social, or emotional problems.
Executive function skills are categorized into eight specific areas, so if a student has executive functioning difficulty, he or she may struggle with some or all of the following skills.
What it means: Organization helps people keep track of things in their mind and in the space around them.
How it looks: People with poor organization skills can lose track of their thoughts. They can also misplace items, like cell phones or homework. And they sometimes have messy bedrooms or backpacks.
Planning & Prioritizing
What it means: Planning and prioritizing skills help people decide on a goal and then identify what they need to do to accomplish the goal.
How it looks: People with weak planning and prioritizing skills may not know what assignments to work on first or which projects are most important.
What it means: Task initiation helps people take action and get started.
How it looks: People with weak task initiation skills may not know how or where to begin a project. They may procrastinate or freeze up.
What it means: Working memory helps people keep information readily accessible.
How it looks: People with weak working memory have trouble remembering directions, even if the directions have been repeated or written down.
What it means: Impulse control helps people think before acting.
How it looks: People with weak impulse control might say inappropriate things, or they may be more likely to engage in risky behavior.
What it means: Self-monitoring helps people evaluate how they’re doing or performing.
How it looks: People who have trouble with self-monitoring may be surprised by a bad grade or criticism.
What it means: Emotional control helps people keep their feelings in check.
How it looks: People with weak emotional control often overreact, and they can have trouble handling criticism. They may also have a hard time getting over things and moving on.
What it means: Flexible thinking allows people to adapt to unexpected circumstances.
How it looks: People without flexible thinking are more rigid in their outlook, and they have trouble “going with the flow.” They might also show frustration of agitation if they have to do things differently than they usually do.