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Executive Functioning Skills.

Updated: Jan 3, 2022

Let's have a closer look at a set of skills that many of us suffer with from time to time (and a little more regular for others). These skills can be especially tricky for those with various neuro-types, such as ADHD and Autism.

Executive functioning skills are a bit like the management system of the brain and help us set goals, make plans and get things done. A set of skills that we develop over time, not born with. Various factors can contribute to executive functioning issues or delayed development, and I believe an important factor to consider when we are placing any expectations on our children (and even ourselves at times) as sometimes we can expect behaviors they are simply not capable of.

The 3 main areas of executive function are working memory, flexible thinking (cognitive flexibility) and inhibitory control (including self-control).

- Working memory is the ability to hold information in our mind. Remembering a number after being told and then writing it down involves the use of our working memory or remembering a name after being introduced to somebody new. In a school environment, this might also include remembering a formula for solving an equation and then applying it to a new equation.

- Flexible thinking is the ability to adapt to a new situation or process by looking at things differently and/or shifting focus from one task to the next.

- Inhibitory control is the ability to stop and assess a situation prior to reacting. When we see a child unable to resist running toward an activity, eating something they’re not meant to, they may be acting on impulse and reacting without thinking about the consequences.

These skills start developing shortly after birth and generally spike (rapid period of development) between ages 3-5 and then again later, during adolescence, however, this is not always the case and there may be various factors that can impact this development. Many on the autism spectrum or with adhd continue to struggle with these skills into adulthood, however full development is generally expected by our mid 20's.

There are ways that we can support the development of these skills at home and in the classroom, with patience, understanding and repetition.

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