Executive Function

So, what exactly is executive function?

Executive functioning skills are mental skills that allow us to manage every aspect of our lives! Attention, problem solving, flexible thinking, working memory, self-control, and even emotional control are executive functioning skills that allow us to manage day-to-day tasks, stay safe, and get things done. When executive functioning is a challenge, you’ll see trouble with planning, prioritization, organization, and staying on a task. Behavioral inhibition or emotional inhibition are part of executive functioning too. You’ll find many resources and tools related to all of these areas here.

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What do all these words mean?

Executive Functioning Skills guide everything we do.  From making decisions, to staying on track with an activity, to planning and prioritizing a task.  The ability to make a decision, plan it out, and act on it without being distracted is what allows us to accomplish the most mundane of tasks to the more complicated and multi-step actions.  Children with executive functioning issues will suffer in a multitude of ways.  Some kids have many deficits in EF and others fall behind in several or all areas. Everyone needs to develop and build executive functions as they grow.  Functional adults may still be struggling with aspects of executive functioning skills.  Executive dysfunction can interfere with independence and the ability to perform activities.  The cognitive skills are an interconnected web of processing that allows for self-regulation, planning, organization, and memory.

Executive Functioning Skills

As a related resource, try these self-reflection activities for kids.

executive functioning skills

Executive Functioning Skills

On this page, you will find a resource for those who are working with children or adults on executive functioning skills, as well as a guide to promoting each of these skill areas through activities.

Executive functioning skills development begins at a very early age. 

Here are strategies to help the adult with executive function disorder. Many of these tips and strategies are great for teens as well. 

What are executive functions?

The following skills are cognitive processes that make up the general term of “executive functioning skills”.  These skills are essential for learning, behavior, and development.  All of these skills work together and impact other areas.  

You might be interested in games to help improve executive function skills.

Another area of interest to you might be the impact executive functioning skills have on handwriting

Executive Functioning Skills:

Emotional Control
Task Completion
Processing Speed
Cognitive Flexibility
Problem Solving

Cognitive Flexibility

Attentional Flexibility (aka Flexible Thinking) refers to the ability to shift attention mid-task, thinking about things in a new or different way, adapting to changes, adjusting in problem solving, and incorporating new information into plans or ideas. Attentional flexibility involves several areas of EF skills…working memory, attention, shift, praxis, metacognition, and more.
Try this quick mental flexibility task:
1. Copy a series of letters: rrrrrrhhhhhh.
2. Add these pairs of numbers: 4 and 2, 5 and 5, 7 and 3.
3. Now subtract the numbers.
4. Playing cards spread face up on the table: Turn over all of the even-numbered cards.
5. Now turn over all of the odd-numbered cards.
  • Check for smooth changes in tasks.
  • Tally number of errors.
  • Record number of verbal prompts (“Are you all done?”), physical prompts (pointing, etc.)
mental flexibility test



Executive function and handwriting

Did you know that executive functioning skills may play a part in letter reversals and other handwriting concerns? Executive function is a component of so much that we do, including handwriting!

Executive functions are heavily dependent on attention.  Read about the attention and executive functioning skill connection and the impact of attention on each of the executive functioning skills that children require and use every day.
Executive functioning skills for kids

How to build executive function skills:

Click on the list above to find more information about each of the separate areas listed above.  More activities, strategies, and tools to address executive function will be added.  
Looking to build executive functioning skills?  Follow our new Executive Functioning Toolbox Facebook Page for strategies, ideas, and tools to help build executive function.

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