An Explanation of Executive Functioning Issues

Executive functioning of the brain is much like that of an executive in a large organization; it oversees processes from start to completion. The ability to perform these functions usually begins around puberty, and it makes it possible for the child to organize, analyze, and act on their analysis. Attitude Magazine lists the six steps of executive function as:

  1. Analyzing the task
  2. Planning how to approach the task
  3. Organizing a series of steps to accomplish the task
  4. Developing a timeline for completing the steps
  5. Adjusting the steps as needed
  6. Completing the task as planned and on time

When a child has difficulty with any or all of these steps, they may have executive function disorder (EFD). However, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis, since other conditions may cause similar symptoms.

EFD is not a learning disability, but it can cause them. Academics that require the use of cognitive skills are the ones that the EFD child is most likely to have problems with. They are unable to organize and process information that is required to obtain an answer or solution.

Too often, the child’s inability to focus on tasks or carry them out results in their being incorrectly diagnosed with ADHD. One of the signs of EFD is inhibition––an inability to stop behavior when it reaches a certain level. The resulting impulsiveness in EFD children prevents this and can appear as a symptom of ADHD.

As a private school for special needs in Irvington, John Cardinal O’Connor School offers the individual learning techniques that address the needs of the individual child.

Another sign of EFD is the lack of emotional control. The child may become upset over certain situations and respond in a way or to a level that is inconsistent with the situation. They lack the flexibility to go from one situation to another and are often unable to generate ideas or think of solutions on their own. Any type of planning or organization task may not be started and is rarely, if ever, completed.

The EFD child does not have the ability to self-monitor or determine whether their behavior or performance meets the level that is expected. Memory issues can also make learning more challenging when children are unable to retain the information presented to them in class.

The parent is in a unique situation to observe the child and take notes about his ability to perform assignments to completion and within the timeframe given. Although the child’s actions may appear to be unpredictable or random, there may be explanations for the behavior patterns. The reason the child is responding to certain situations negatively may not be apparent to them, either.

Studying patterns will allow the parent to understand what is really at the root of the upset and, potentially, solve some problems without a lot of effort. Take the information you gain through observation of their behavior to your child’s doctor to help them understand his or her issues.

Meeting the Challenges of Learning with EFD

It takes a group effort to meet the challenges of EFD, and provide the child with the education they need and deserve. Parents, doctors, therapists, and teachers can all contribute to helping the child accomplish more at home and at school throughout the day.

Parents should consider the value of sending their child with EFD to John Cardinal O’Connor School for a better coping and learning experience. Schools for learning disabilities shouldn’t be thought of as an obstacle to education, but as a step up for the child to take on the challenges of EFD and get more from his or her education.



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