Executive Function: A Quick Look
What You Should Know About Executive Function:
"Executive Function" is a term used to describe a set of mental processes that helps us connect past experience with present action. Executive function allows us to:
Keep track of time
Keep track of more than one thing at once
Meaningfully include past knowledge in discussions
Engage in group dynamics
Reflect on our work
Change our minds and make mid-course and corrections while thinking, reading and writing
Finish work on time
Ask for help
Wait to speak until we're called on
Week more information when we need it.
There is no single test or even battery of tests that identifies all of the different features of executive function. However, educators, psychologists, speech-language pathologists and others use an assortment of tests to identify problems.
Warning signs: A Student May Have Problems With Executive Function When He or She:
Has difficulty planning projects
Has trouble comprehending how much time a project will take to complete
Has difficulty with story-telling (verbally or in writing); struggles to communicate details in an organized, sequential manner
Has difficulty with the mental strategies involved in memorization and retrieving information from memory
Has trouble initiating activities or tasks, or generating ideas independently
Has difficulty retaining information while doing something with it; e.g., remembering a phone number while dialing.
The brain continues to mature and develop connections well into adulthood, and a person's executive function abilities are shaped by both physical changes in the brain and by life experiences, in the classroom and in the world at large. Early attention to developing efficient skills in this area can be very helpful, and as a rule, direct instruction, frequent reassurance and explicit feedback are strongly recommended.
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Reprinted with the permission of the National Center for Learning Disabilities. © 1999-2009 National Center for Learning Disabilities, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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