Every day, without even realizing it, we all use a complex, interrelated system of cognitive processes to govern our goal-directed behavior. When you sit down to work in the morning or choose to put your phone away during dinner, you’re engaging in processes known as executive functions. These skills help us manage our daily activities, learn effectively, and initiate tasks.

When we have strong executive function skills, we can manage our time, keep track of materials and tasks, maintain focus, and effectively process information with ease. Executive functioning even helps us screen for errors, regulate our emotions, and manage frustration. Individuals with executive function weaknesses, however, often struggle with a range of cognitive, behavioral, and emotional tasks like planning, problem solving, time management, organization, focus, and emotion regulation.

At Organizational Tutors, we know that the power of executive functioning is enormous — both in and out of the classroom, in our academic, personal and professional lives. Luckily, executive functions are also a set of skills that can (and should) be honed, especially for students with executive functioning disorders. In this post, you’ll learn:

  • Why executive functioning is important
  • How to tell if your child is having trouble with executive functioning
  • How tutoring can help your child develop executive functioning strategies

Why Does Executive Functioning Matter?

Think of your executive functioning system as your control center or navigational system —  basically, the air traffic control tower for your brain. It’s where all of your organizational decisions are made, such as prioritizing tasks, focusing attention, multitasking, remembering instructions, and so on. Coincidentally, this control center is centrally located in your brain’s frontal lobe.

Strong executive functioning skills allow you to manage your time and emotions, and to adjust them appropriately, in any given situation. In other words, they help you get things done efficiently and effectively. Those who have executive function issues, however, can become easily distracted, have weaker self-control, and struggle to hold information in mind and use it in new ways.

The key executive functioning skills are:

  • Task initiation
  • Focus
  • Planning
  • Prioritizing
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Self-regulation
  • Organization
  • Time management
  • Filtering distractions
  • Self-restraint & impulse control
  • Patience & frustration tolerance

Self-management skills help students of all ages achieve their goals in the classroom and beyond, and struggling in any of these areas can have a significant impact on learning outcomes. But children are not born with executive functioning skills; while the potential to develop these abilities is innate, they require consistent practice. Thankfully, many studies show that targeted interventions and tutoring can significantly improve executive functioning.

Does My Child Have Executive Functioning Challenges?

Executive functioning challenges refer to a difficulty in your brain’s ability to focus, manage time, stay organized, prioritize, and actively remember things. Conditions like ADHD, depression, learning disabilities, brain injuries, Alzheimer’s, or stroke can all contribute to a poor executive functioning system. While there is no official executive functioning disorder or executive dysfunction in the language psychologists use for diagnosis, it is recognized as a serious impediment to learning.

If you suspect your child may have significant challenges with executive functioning, here are some signs to look out for:

  • Difficulty task initiation and planning projects
  • Difficulty estimating how long a project will take
  • Problems with telling ordered stories, both verbally and written
  • Issues with active memory or recall
  • Easily distracted or lack of attentional endurance
  • Lack of emotion regulation

This list is not exhaustive or diagnostic, but it may help you identify if your child is struggling and needs additional support.

What is Executive Function Tutoring?

One of the most important misunderstandings around executive functioning challenges is that the failure to submit homework or to manage schoolwork is an indication of a lower IQ. Even the most academically and intellectually gifted individuals can have learning difficulties and weaker executive functions. The key to overcoming issues with focus, time management and emotional control is learning to anticipate obstacles, and developing skills and strategies to strengthen executive functions. The capacity to manage, plan, prioritize and regulate emotions increases independence and long-term success for everyone, regardless of their learning profile.

Executive function tutoring seeks to empower students to take control of their own learning by changing their approach. Through in-person or online sessions, we give students tools to help them become more effective learners, while communicating with parents and teachers to ensure maximum change. Your child will internalize these new systems through a collaborative process that leaves them better equipped to focus in class, tackle their schoolwork and manage learning difficulties.

At Organizational Tutors, our students’ independence and positive sense of self is our number one priority. Our network of specialists helps students with all types of learning profiles form crucial learning habits and develop organizational skills. Executive function coaching isn’t just about helping students in the short term — it’s about developing a powerful skill set that will serve them throughout their academic, personal and professional lives.
Ready to help your child become a better learner? Contact Organizational Tutors to talk to an executive functioning expert and learn more about our tutoring network.

OT Team

Author OT Team

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