The Seven Executive Functions
“Executive function is the cognitive process that organizes thoughts and activities, prioritizes tasks, manages time efficiently, and makes decisions.” - ADDitude Magazine. While the development of these abilities starts while children are young, they should continue to progress in these throughout adulthood. By the time children reach adolescence, however, they should be exhibiting most of them.
The seven executive functions are:
- Non-verbal working memory
- Verbal working memory
- Emotional self-regulation
- Planning and problem solving
In this article, we’ll review each of the seven functions, and how they can affect a child’s learning success.
The ability of a person to self-evaluate or understand how well he or she is executing a particular task is key to achieving academic goals and processing school tasks. Kids who self-monitor their progress on a particular assignment are better able to track their development and realize that they may need to make adjustments in order to complete the work at hand.
When children struggle with self-awareness, they will find it difficult to know when they need assistance and how to find that help.
Parents of toddlers know well what it is like to parent a child who has little ability to control their inhibitions and impulses. Children with ADHD often struggle with inhibition control even as they get older, making it more difficult to focus on academics.
3) Non-Verbal Working Memory
When we are reading or listening to a story, we typically imagine what is being described. Until the movie version of our favorite novel is released, we may hold an image in our minds of what our favorite character looks like.
Children with ADHD may not be able to hold that image clearly or for as long as others, even as they age. This makes learning and focusing on instructions challenging.
4) Verbal Working Memory
Do you feel like you have an inner monologue going at all times? That’s perfectly normal and actually part of your executive functioning development. This inner monologue may be muddled or missing for children with ADHD.
5) Emotional Self-Regulation
This is the capacity to control your own emotional state using the preceding four executive functions. This entails learning how to analyze and change how we feel about things through words, images, and our own self-awareness. Inability to regulate emotions can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to focus and learn during the school day.
Self-motivation is key to keeping up with tasks that may not be immediately due but will pile up as the school year goes on. Children with ADHD often struggle with motivation to perform school assignments and study before the last possible moment.
7) Planning and Problem Solving
A child with planning skills may develop a list of actions intended to successfully complete a task and can accurately decide which components are the most crucial. When a child struggles with planning and organization, it will be difficult for them to determine how to solve problems.
How Ignite Achievement Academy Helps Children Develop Executive Functions
Ignite Achievement Academy specializes in working with students in grades K-12 with learning barriers. These barriers often include learning disabilities, language disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, and depression.
Our goals with students are to:
- Improve their ability to learn academic skills and subjects;
- Help them solve problems;
- Help them make friends and function well in a school environment; and
- Help them feel productive, competent, and happy.
There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for helping students with difficulties developing executive functions. Our student body is only approximately sixty students, with roughly six students per classroom. Each classroom has a teacher and access to a teacher’s assistant, so our faculty is able to focus on each individual student.
Our elementary and middle school students take a variety of courses in science, social studies, English, math, and skill-building, as well as physical education, art, and practical learning. They also receive coaching in organizational skills.
In addition to working one-on-one with teachers and teaching assistants, students also collaborate with their complete class of six students as well as in groups of one to two.
High school students complete the standard courses in English, science, social studies, and math and receive coaching in time management, organizational, and study skills. We also create certain skill-building courses for students to take as electives when needed.
We have seen many students with ADHD experience tremendous success in developing executive functions. If you have a student with ADHD or who experiences difficulties with executive functions, we would love to talk to you and answer your questions. Contact Ignite Achievement Academy today!