National Center for Learning Disabilities

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What Is Executive Function?

How Are Problems With Executive Function Identified?

There is no single test or even battery of tests that identifies all of the different features of executive function. Educators, psychologists, speech-language pathologists and others use a variety of tests to identify problems. Careful observation and trial teaching are invaluable in identifying and better understanding weaknesses in this area.

What Are Some Strategies to Help?

There are many effective strategies to help with the problem of executive function challenges. Here are some methods to try:

General Strategies

  • Take step-by-step approaches to work; rely on visual organizational aids.
  • Use tools like time organizers, computers or watches with alarms.
  • Prepare visual schedules and review them several times a day.
  • Ask for written directions with oral instructions whenever possible.
  • Plan and structure transition times and shifts in activities.

Managing Time

  • Create checklists and “to do” lists, estimating how long tasks will take.
  • Break long assignments into chunks and assign time frames for completing each chunk.
  • Use visual calendars at to keep track of long term assignments, due dates, chores and activities.
  • Use management software such as the Franklin Day Planner, Palm Pilot or Lotus Organizer.
  • Be sure to write the due date on top of each assignment.

Managing Space and Materials

  • Organize work space.
  • Minimize clutter.
  • Consider having separate work areas with complete sets of supplies for different activities.
  • Schedule a weekly time to clean and organize the work space.

Managing Work

  • Make a checklist for getting through assignments. For example, a student’s checklist could include such items as: get out pencil and paper; put name on paper; put due date on paper; read directions; etc.
  • Meet with a teacher or supervisor on a regular basis to review work; troubleshoot problems.


This article is made possible by a grant from the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation.

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