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  • Writer's pictureShannon Kelly

Executive Function Challenges in Children

Executive Function - What is it? Why does it Matter?

Executive functioning skills are essential skills that help children effectively manage tasks, exercise self-control, establish priorities, concentrate on important assignments, and adapt to changing circumstances. Executive Functioning is associated with an individual's prefrontal cortex- one of the last regions in your brain to mature. Because of this, all children experience immature executive functioning skills, making them easily distracted, and unable to properly regulate emotions. Most children might hit their sibling if they are upset, rather than using their words. However, certain children may exhibit a significant delay in their executive functioning skills compared to their peers, which may persist into adulthood and create difficulties throughout their lives.

Although ADHD is the most prevalent condition associated with executive functioning issues, other conditions such as autism, oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety, depression, and learning differences can also result in executive functioning challenges. This is because the issues arising from these conditions often involve difficulties with executive functioning skills. Instead of solely focusing on the extensive list of potential challenges that can arise from executive functioning problems, it may be more helpful to zoom in on the specific difficulties your child is experiencing. By identifying and addressing your child's individual challenges with executive functioning skills, you can better tailor strategies and interventions to support their specific needs and help them succeed.

Scaffolding: Accommodations often involve the idea of scaffolding—where you add more structure to the environment to teach kids good habits and routines, and then slowly remove the structure until they can do it themselves.

Remember that your child needs to build these skills: Having the mindset that these are skills that needs to be learned, instead of your child being bad, can also help your child think positively about their differences, instead of feeling ashamed that things that seem easy for others are so hard for them.

Stay Away from Punishment: Try and stay away from punishments that come from issues of executive function. Natural consequences may not be effective for addressing weaknesses stemming from lagging skills, as these weaknesses may not be due to a lack of effort or desire on your child's part, but rather a genuine inability to consistently meet expectations due to skill deficits.

Take Breaks: Take breaks and set expectations for yourself and your child.

Executive Functioning difficulties often create frustration and emotional difficulties, as it can be difficult to meet the expectations at both home and school. At Creative Sky Psychology, we assess the practical effects of Executive Function in essential areas. We provide children and adolescents with strategies to break down tasks into manageable components based on their age and developmental stage. By fostering a sense of accomplishment, children are motivated to perform better.

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