What are Executive Functioning Skills?

Executive Functioning impacts every aspect of life. Our Executive Functioning Skills are the foundation for everything we do in modern life and determine the success or dysfunction as a result of our level of mastery.

Executive functioning skills help us control and manage our thoughts and actions. This includes initiating a task, adjusting to problems, overcoming obstacles, while organizing and prioritizing all of the steps and details.

We all need to learn these skills, as most of them are not part of the natural abilities we are born with. Most of us assemble these specific traits when we grow up, especially if we are grounded, present and able to integrate our life experiences on a slower, more linear, left-brain level of function.

Executive Functioning Skills and Literacy/ Different Learning Styles 

Individuals who are more visual, faster and processing life in a round, intuitive, imaginative and sensory way, have a harder time integrating executive functioning concepts.

Children who have literacy issues with challenges to focus and pay attention for an extended period of time, would miss at least a few of these pillars of life. These could be dyslexic children or students with ADD/ADHD and other learning difficulties.

Children who struggle with the basics of mathematics definitely need concepts that are part of the Executive Functioning palate.

Most individuals with ADD or ADHD are part of this fast-paced thinking pattern that they don’t naturally develop these skills.

A primary school-aged child who is able to independently perform a multi-step process such as a breakfast preparation (making toast or preparing cereal), cleaning up afterwards, brushing their teeth, getting dressed, organising their school day and packing lunch, and getting to the bus on time would present with a high level of executive functioning.

Executive functioning skills and literacy

Sometimes these skills get affected only when it comes to literacy, if dyslexia presents a challenge in a student’s life. The emotional component would be able to throw otherwise strong executive skills out the window. The stress around a lack of comprehension of what is read, time pressure around exams or taking much longer to form and process linear thought can impact executive skills.

Dyslexic children are mostly big-picture thinkers. That too can impact the abilities around these linear tasks and processes.

Adults with executive function disorder or related issues are impacted strongly in day to day tasks. Executive functioning is part of absolutely everything we do. They impact our focus, attention, memory, organisation skills, time management and our ability to plan, prioritize, execute and follow through with our plans.

If day to day challenges, such as planning and organizing, are a real struggle, it will impact your family life, your work life, relationships and confidence. Mostly in adults, problems cross over to social, emotional, intellectual and mental aspects that can come at a devastating cost. 

Executive functioning skills and literacy

How to Improve Executive Functioning Skills?

“My son has battled with Executive Function Disorder all of his life, it is really preventing him from moving forward with his life. Things like completing a task, making decisions, time management, and projecting ahead are very HARD. Is there anything that can help my adult son struggling with executive functioning disorder?”

 If that sounds familiar, you are not alone. Yet this is not how things have to be. We can offer tools and strategies that enable adults of all ages to improve their overall wellbeing.

Executive function is developmental. In fact, these skills don’t typically fully develop until the early twenties. That doesn’t mean we should not start to help a child improve their skills when we become aware of struggles in the areas seen. The baseline starts in infancy and during the developmental phase there are many ‘red flags’ we can be made aware of.

However, it takes an adult, a parent or teacher, to notice and to be able to ‘connect the dots’. These include a short attention span, lack of impulse and emotional control, short working memory, challenge with self-monitoring, planning and prioritizing, difficulty to initiate tasks, and lack of organization.  Looking at this skills set, executive function skills are essential for independence.

Ideally the adult needs to have these skills fully integrated first. Then the parent will be able to help in so many ways to ease day to day experiences, which allows our students to fully participate in life, confidently and competently.

You will benefit from developing your Executive Functioning skills if you struggle on a daily basis with:

  • Getting started on chores
  • Initiating tasks
  • Getting focused
  • Staying on a task without getting side-tracked
  • Losing things constantly
  • Being organized or orderly
  • Getting to appointments on time
  • Being able to estimate time
  • Completing work on time
  • Getting stressed and worried about work commitments
  • Remembering a sequence of tasks
  • Prioritizing chores
  • Dealing with changes
  • Understanding consequences
  • Self-management, self-awareness, self-control …
  • Responsibility
  • And many other challenges that are grounded in these concepts.
Executive functioning skills training

Executive Functioning Skills Training

As executive functioning skills have such an impact on literacy, I will be providing training focused on addressing deficits.

Concepts are put into six categories over six consecutive weeks, one building on the next in complexity, yet still powerful in its simplicity. There are concepts around self-awareness, goal setting towards change, understanding consequence, time management, sequence of tasks and organisation skills.

 Making each small step a daily habit is extremely important, as we are reprogramming the brain, to allow for changing of stubborn old habits that may not be useful any longer.

 Each student follows their own self-created passion task. It is geared towards the parents, the adults and high school students, who can experience the shift. Parents can always work with their child as well, but the projects we focus on are their own.

Everyone’s project that will be achieved, followed up and fuelled by the passion of the individual, who learns to plan, organize, prioritize, follow-through, fired on by the small community that supports and inspires each other.

We meet every week for 90 minutes on zoom, but for most impact, the number of participants is limited.

 If you feel this is your time to make this shift – for you or your child – please contact me directly as soon as possible: barbara@theoneyearschool.com.

 You can go on a waiting list for next year too.