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Executive Function Disorder

What is Executive Function and how does it impact learning?

Definition: Executive function describes those actions we perform to ourselves and direct at ourselves so as to accomplish self-control and goal-directed behavior. It is self-regulation and planning through internal dialogue.

Executive function disorder causes these problems: getting started and finishing work, remembering homework, writing essays or reports, being on time, controlling emotions, completing long-term projects, and planning for the future.

Executive function requires practice. Children who take more time to build basic learning skills often lag in developing executive function. Often it is only when executive function deficits appear that learning issues, which have been there all along, are properly identified.

The Five Components Of Executive Function

These components of executive function impact school performance:

1. Working memory and recall — holding facts in mind while manipulating information; accessing facts stored in long-term memory.
2. Activation, arousal, and effort — getting started; paying attention; finishing work.
3. Controlling emotions — ability to tolerate frustration; thinking before acting or speaking.
4. Internalizing language — using “self-talk” to control one’s behavior and direct future actions.
5. Complex problem solving — taking an issue apart, analyzing the pieces, reconstituting and organizing it into new ideas.

Time Management
Students with executive function deficits may also have difficulty judging the passage of time accurately, which means they cannot accurately estimate how much time it will take to finish a task; consequently, they may not allow enough time to complete work.

It also affects their sense of the future. Students live in the present, focus on the here and now; they are less likely to talk about time or plan for the future. As a result, students have difficulty projecting lessons learned in the past, forward into the future (limited foresight) and have difficulty preparing for the future.

There are number of surprising impacts from executive function disorder – listed here. Also read this article on the symptoms of executive function deficits, with a list of recommended workarounds.

Cognitive Skills and Executive Function

While any learning delay has the potential to cause an executive function disorder, two cognitive skills stand out:

  • Working memory. If working memory — the ability to hold and manipulate several things in mind at once — is weak, mental computation, planning and organization skills are weakened.
  • Attention. If a child has ADD or ADHD, the ability to engage over a period of time is compromised, leading to flawed thinking and executive function delays.

Gemm Learning treats executive function disorder by using brain training to boost learning efficiency — including working memory and attention skills — and by strengthening specific executive functioning skills.
Our program to help executive function