By Rachel Betzen, M.A., CCC/SLP
Note: This is the second part of a 4 part series. Start at Executive Function – Part 1
Executive functions are the beginning of meeting your full potential. These skills strengthen our ability to observe our own thoughts and feelings, to empathize with others, manage multiple responsibilities, and work toward long term goals. Executive functions are important life skills that will continue to develop throughout our lifespan.
Executive functions refer to “the cognitive process that regulates an individual’s ability to organize thoughts and activities, prioritize tasks, manage time efficiently, and make decisions. This is huge for the children that we work with and our goals for helping them to become socially aware, compassionate and independent learners.
The following definitions are a combination of descriptions from the book Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare and insights from our clinical practice at Dallas Reading and Language Services.
1. Response Inhibition: Ability to think before one acts and to delay or stop impulsive responses
2. Organization: Ability to design and maintain a system for keeping track of information, and creating and using templates that make learning easier and more concrete
3. Task Initiation: Ability to begin tasks without excessive procrastination and to meet set deadlines
4. Working Memory: Ability to hold information in mind while completing complex tasks; this also involves using prior knowledge and experience
5. Emotional Control: Ability to manage emotions as needed in order to accomplish goals and complete daily responsibilities
6. Flexibility: Ability to respond to changing circumstances and revise plans due to obstacles, mistakes, and new information
7. Sustained Attention: Ability to maintain attention to tasks during distractions, fatigue, or other learning barriers; this also includes awareness of attention or lack thereof
8. Time Management: Ability to estimate the total time that one has, and allocate tasks with prioritization for completion and meeting deadlines
9. Planning: Ability to create a graphic organization for all the steps needed for task completion and maintain focus on what is most important
9. Goal-Directed Persistence: Ability to make short and long term goals, follow through toward completion in spite of distractions or other interests
10. Metacognition: Ability to self-monitor from a big picture perspective, and observe one’s own thoughts, problem-solving, and continuous development of one’s own executive skills.
Note: Proceed to the “Executive Function – Part 3“