Monday with Maureen: Myths about Executive Functioning Issues

Monday with Maureen

Today’s article tackles executive functioning. It is defined as a set of mental processes that helps connect past experience with present action. People use it to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space. It’s not something that is commonly discussed–however many children on the spectrum struggle with this very issue.

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by Amanda Morin
If your child has executive functioning issues, you know how real these issues are—and how big an impact they can have. Whether you’re new to the topic or not, though, you might have trouble separating fact from fiction. Here are five common myths about executive function, put to rest.

Myth #1: Executive functioning issues aren’t real.
Fact: Some people might raise an eyebrow at a term like “executive functioning issues,” and that’s not surprising. It sounds like something you might read in a business magazine! But executive functioning skills such as organization and time management aren’t just used by CEOs. Experts don’t yet know exactly what causes executive functioning issues. Many studies have found that trouble with these skills is related to differences in how the brain is structured and the levels of chemicals in the brain that help with focus and attention. It’s important to remember, too, that issues with executive functioning aren’t signs of laziness or lack of ambition.

Myth #2: Executive function issues are the same thing as ADHD.
Fact: It’s true that executive functioning can be a challenge for many kids who have ADHD. But not all kids who have executive functioning issues have ADHD, and vice versa. While researchers are still exploring the connection between the two conditions, they do know that kids who have the inattentive type of ADHD are more likely to have trouble with executive functioning skills than kids who are hyperactive or impulsive.

Myth #3: Kids outgrow executive functioning issues.
Fact: Because executive functioning issues are brain-based, it’s not something that children outgrow. That doesn’t mean a child with executive functioning issues can’t improve his executive skills, however. As kids get older, their executive functioning skills continue to develop. Getting help at school and using at-home strategies to build on strengths can help your child’s brain learn ways to work around weaknesses with organization, planning and time management.

Myth #4: Schools won’t give accommodations for executive function issues.
Fact: There is no specific diagnosis for executive functioning issues, but that doesn’t mean your child’s school can’t provide accommodations to help your child. The teacher may have suggestions for strategies in the classroom. You may also want to consider asking for an educational evaluation to get a better sense of your child’s specific learning challenges. If your child has a specific learning disability and/or ADHD, he may be eligible for an IEP or 504 plan that puts formal accommodations in place. These may include extra time to complete tests or a positive behavior plan to help your child improve impulse control in class.

Myth #5: There’s nothing you can do about executive functioning issues.
Fact: There are a number of ways to help improve your child’s executive functioning skills. Your child’s school can use specific teaching strategies and programs like Response to Intervention. At home you can experiment with different tools such as graphic organizers, checklists and games that boost memory skills. Learning as much as you can about executive functioning issues will help you understand your child and figure out the best strategies to help him.


Our thanks to the National Center for Learning Disabilities for this great article!

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