Does Your Child Have Executive Function Difficulties?
Executive function is the term we use to describe the mental processes that help connect past experience with present action. Activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space require that we use executive function skills. Another aspect of executive function is trouble with working memory, which is the active part of the memory system.
Dysfunction in executive skills is common in individuals with LD and even more so in those with ADHD, and causes significant difficulty with learning and behavior. Knowing that your child struggles with executive function is the first step in developing a plan to help.
The checklist below will help you start to think about if executive function may be an area of weakness for your child. It does not diagnose or even pinpoint a specific problem, but it can be helpful as a way to capture your observations and concerns and to start a conversation with your child’s school personnel or other professionals.
Thinking about the last six months, my child…
|Has difficulty with paying attention||☐|
|Is easily distracted||☐|
|Requires many reminders to stay on task||☐|
|Finds it difficult to set goals||☐|
|Seems to struggle with making decisions||☐|
|Has trouble identifying where to start on assignments||☐|
|Focuses on either details or the big picture at the expense of the other||☐|
|Has difficulty getting started on tasks, often seems to procrastinate||☐|
|Struggles to comprehend how much time a project will take to complete||☐|
|Takes longer than peers to complete homework and other tasks||☐|
|Needs numerous prompts from adults to stay on-task||☐|
|Loses track of time or assignment due dates||☐|
|Forgets to turn in completed work||☐|
|Struggles with keeping track of needed materials; often leaves materials at home or school||☐|
|Finds checking his/her work very difficult (and may not do it at all)||☐|
|Has trouble following multiple-step directions||☐|
|Forgets what he/she is saying or doing in the middle of a task||☐|
|Forgets the details of reading while reading or soon after finishing||☐|
|Gets frustrated with changes in schedule or usual routines||☐|
|Has difficulty shifting from one activity to another (especially when the rules/task demands change)||☐|
|Struggles with shifting between information that is literal vs. figurative, past vs. present, etc.||☐|
|“Gets stuck” on parts of tasks and can’t move forward||☐|
|Seems to have difficulty controlling impulses—will say or do things without thinking about them first||☐|
|Is easily frustrated||☐|
|Often talks out of turn and/or interrupts others’ conversations||☐|
Issues related to executive functioning don’t always pop up during testing. However, understanding your child’s executive functioning profile is a way to better gauge what your child is experiencing and fine tune options for providing relief and support. If you’re wondering if you should be concerned with other aspects of your child’s learning and behavior, check out our Interactive LD Checklist