Executive Skills

We are able to manage our lives using high-level thinking abilities called executive skills.  In the same way that the executive runs a company, our brain’s executive skills direct and manage our lives.

Students with strong executive skills manage their study sessions so they are more productive.  They understand which subjects to give the greatest attention to because they “know what they know.”

These students are organized and efficient.  They regulate their emotions so that they bring test anxiety under control.

Students with ADD or ADHD have difficulty regulating their lives in one or more key areas.  ADD and ADHD can make it difficult for students to screen out distractions, prioritize their activities, and commit to tasks that are “boring” to them. They need educational therapy to help them develop stronger management skills.

Autism is another disorder that affects students’ executive skills.  Students with autism spectrum disorder need help to learn how to study effectively and how to determine if they have learned the material well. They can have trouble with reading comprehension and therefore don’t realize that they have not mastered the reading assignment.

Dr. Miller’s executive skills programs help students develop the willingness and ability to manage their academic lives.  She helps students become productive, efficient and organized. She shows students how to find time for all the academic tasks they are expected to do and still find time to enjoy their interests and family and friends. She helps students who have difficulty sustaining attention learn ways to increase their “time on task.”

Dr. Miller helps students “feel like studying” when they have given up because of repeated failure.  She helps them develop the emotional copying strategies to persist through difficult subjects and demanding schedules.  She also helps them defeat the learned helplessness that robs them of confidence and the power to change.

Some key executive skills that Dr. Miller’s programs develop include:

  • Planning/Prioritization—the ability to create a roadmap to reach a goal or to complete a task.
  • Organization—the ability to arrange or place things according to a system.
  • Time Management—the capacity to estimate how much time one has available, how to allocate it, and how to stay within time limits and meet deadlines.
  • Working Memory—the ability to hold information in mind while performing complex tasks.
  • Metacognition—the ability to stand back and take a bird’s-eye view of your behavior in a situation.
  • Response Inhibition—the capacity to think before you act.
  • Self-regulation of Affect—the ability to manage emotions in order to achieve goals, complete tasks or control and direct behavior.
  • Task Initiation—the ability to begin a task without procrastination, in a timely fashion.
  • Flexibility—the ability to revise plans in the face of obstacles, setbacks, new information, changing goals, or mistakes.
  • Goal-directed Persistence—the ability or drive to follow through to the completion of a goal and not be put off by other demands or competing interests.  
  • Divided Attention—the ability to attend to and handle two or more tasks at one time, such as taking notes while listening, and carrying totals while adding the next column. This skill is required for handling complex tasks quickly.
  • Sustained Attention—the ability to be able to stay on task.
  • Selective Attention—the ability to stay on task even when distraction is present.
  • Disengaging Attention—the ability to stop directing your attention towards something when it is time to handle another task.
  • Regulation of Processing Speed—the ability to make a conscious decision about how slowly or quickly to perform a task based upon its importance.

You can read more about executive skills in Dr. Miller’s blog