What Is Executive Function?
Diagnosing Problems With Executive Function
Executive function involves a set of interrelated skills. So there's no single test to identify trouble. Instead psychologists, teachers, speech-language pathologists, and therapists rely on different tests to measure specific skills.
Problems identified by individual tests can't predict how well adults or children will function in complex, real-world situations. Sometimes, careful observation and trial teaching are more valuable ways of identifying and improving weak executive function.
How to Cope With Executive Function Problems
There are ways to cope if you suspect problems with executive function. Here are some suggested strategies from the National Center for Learning Disabilities:
General things to try:
- 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.
To improve time management:
- 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 to keep track of long-term assignments, due dates, chores, and activities.
- Be sure to write the due date on top of each assignment.
To better manage space and keep things from getting lost:
- 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.
To improve work habits:
- 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 and troubleshoot problems.