Educational techniques for ADHD – What are executive function skills?

executive-function-skillsIndividuals with ADHD and ADD often have difficulty with Executive Skills, also called Executive Functions. These are the skills that help us manage and direct our lives. They are analogous to the activities that an executive engages in to manage and direct a company or business.

Executive skills allow us to plan and organize our behavior, make well-considered decisions, overrule immediate desires in favor of longer-term goals, take conscious control of our emotions, and monitor our thoughts in order to work more efficiently and effectively.

There are a number of different theories and definitions of the skills that constitute executive functions. The following is a compilation that illustrates the full range of skills needed to effectively manage our lives.

Executive Functions

Planning and prioritizing
The ability to create a plan to complete a task or to develop an approach to achieving a goal. This skill includes making decisions about what to direct attention toward and the ordering of the steps needed to achieve the goal.

Time management
The sense that “time” is an important concept, the ability to accurately estimate how much time a task will take, knowing how to apportion your time, and how to stay within time constraints to meet deadlines.

Organization
The ability to arrange ideas or objects according to a defined structure.

Working Memory
The ability to remember information while using the information to perform complex tasks.

Metacognition
The ability to take a top-down view of your problem solving approach and to self-monitor and evaluate performance.

Response Inhibition
The power to resist the urge to say or to do something; taking time to think before acting.

Self-regulation of Affect
The ability to deal with emotions so that they don’t get in the way of completing tasks or achieving goals.

Task Initiation
The ability to start a task at the appropriate time without delay or procrastination.

Flexibility
The ability to adapt your responses, behaviors and plans when necessary in order to achieve toward your goals.

Goal-directed Persistence
The ability to follow through to complete tasks and achieve goals.

Sustained Attention
The capacity to pay attention to a task, particularly if the task is not interesting.

Disengaging Attention
The ability to stop directing your attention towards one thing and direct it towards something else.

Regulation of Processing Speed
The ability to make a conscious decision about how slowly or quickly to perform a task based upon its importance to you.

About Dr. Kari Miller, PhD
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