Executive Functioning

What is executive functioning?

It is a set of mental skills that helps you get things done. They are broken down into 8 categories:

  1. Impulse control

  2. Emotional control

  3. Flexible thinking

  4. Working memory

  5. Self monitoring

  6. Planning and prioritizing

  7. Task initiation

  8. Organization


A video that helps explain executive functioning

1. Impulse control

What is impulse control?

Being able to stop and think before acting.

What can impulse control challenges look like?

  • Being spontaneous

  • Being rude

  • Not paying attention

  • Being reckless

  • Difficulty with stealing

  • Not following through


Strategies to help manage impulse control

  • Visual

  • Medication

  • Scheduling and routines

  • Cell phone reminders/alarms

  • Be proactive

  • Short tasks

  • Labeling items

  • Walk and talk


2. Emotional control

What is emotional control?

Being able to manage feelings by focusing on the end results or goal.


What can emotional control challenges look like?

  • Overreacting

  • Worrying

  • Not finishing tasks

  • Being socially inappropriate

  • Not listening to feedback


Strategies to help manage emotional control

  • Co regulation

  • Use program/tools to teach

  • Talking

  • Role playing

  • Visuals


3. Flexible thinking

What is flexible thinking?

Being able to adapt when plans fail.


What can flexible thinking challenges look like?

  • Acting out when change occurs

  • Not able to change gears

  • Black and white thinking


Strategies to help manage flexible thinking

  • Regulation

  • Role playing

  • Rehearsing

  • Social stories

  • Problem solving

  • Lists


4. Working memory

What is working memory?

Being able to hold information in your mind and use it later.


What can working memory challenges look like?

  • Difficulty with multi-steps tasks

  • Difficulty understanding instruction

  • Forgetfulness

  • Taking notes in class


Strategies to help manage working memory

  • Visuals

  • Write down instructions

  • Verbally – one at a time

  • Record notes to replay later

  • Use familiar language

  • Give cues, not answers

  • Alarms and calendars

  • Be concrete

  • Doing with


5. Self monitoring

What is self monitoring?

Being able to keep track of and evaluate yourself.


What can self monitoring challenges look like?

  • Lack of self-awareness

  • Good/bad jobs looks the same

  • Lack of reviewing work

  • Lack of learning from mistakes


Strategies to help self monitoring

  • Checklists

  • Timelines

  • Reviewing

  • Ask questions

  • Doing with


6. Planning and prioritizing

What is planning and prioritizing?

Being able to come up with steps to reach a goal and decide the order of importance.


What can planning and prioritizing challenges look like?

  • Easily overwhelmed

  • Trouble starting a task

  • Hard to see main ideas


Strategies to help with planning and prioritizing

  • Break tasks down

  • Visuals

  • Timelines

  • Reminders

  • Doing with


7. Task Initiation

What is task initiation?

Being able to start.


What can task initiation challenges look like?

  • Lazy

  • Uninterested

  • Procrastination

  • You don’t care

  • Disorganized


Strategies to help with task initiation

  • Be specific

  • Break tasks down

  • Lists

  • Visuals

  • Timelines

  • Alarms/reminders

  • Schedules

  • Doing with


8. Organization

What is organization?

Being able to keep track of information and things.


What can organization challenges look like?

  • Constantly loosing items

  • Misplacing items

  • Chaos

  • Disorganized room/house/desk

  • Scattered


Strategies to help with organization

  • Visuals

  • Colour coding

  • Labeling

  • Schedule/routine

  • Reminders

  • Write out steps to tasks

  • Doing with


Three Strategies for Executive Functioning

1. Visual Learning

What is visual learning?

Learning best when the material is seen.

  • Photos

  • Graphs

  • Maps

  • Videos

  • Infographics

  • Movies

  • Demonstrations


2. Teachable Moments

What are teachable moments?

They are planned or unplanned learning opportunities.


You see that your dad is about to start baking cookies. You could ask your dad if he can teach you how to bake cookies.


3. Allow more time for processing

What is processing?

The amount of time it takes to think.

Everyone’s processing time is different. Some people can think things through within seconds. Some people can think things through within minutes and some people need to go away with the information to think things through.

Thinking takes time and it is ok to ask for more time.

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