Learning Disabilities and ADHD Articles

Executive Functions

Filed under:
Executive Functions
Written by:
Tanya Keto, BEd, MEd, Registered Provisional Psychologist
Manager, Professional Development and Parent Education
June 7, 2017

Academically, EF is the foundation for academic proficiency because it contributes to our ability to engage in behaviours that lead to achievement. Difficulties may result when a student faces challenges with processing information (learning), demonstrating learning (production), or some combination of the two.

Our understanding of the brain-at-work has increased a great deal since the advent of neuroimaging technologies such as positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic imaging (fMRI). Though researchers have made great gains in understanding how the brain learns, they continue to investigate why some individuals learn more efficiently and effectively than others. One area of particular interest is the relationship between school performance and EF, the combination of cognitive and psychological processes that are essential to learning.

Strategies for the Child with Executive Function Deficits

The most common request I get is “what are some strategies I can use with my child?” The answer to that is different for each child. Generally, there are some evidence-based strategies that we know work with most students with EF deficits:

  • distraction-reduced environment
  • single step instructions
  • breaking large tasks into smaller more easily achievable ones
  • posting schedules and reminders in a highly visual place, etc.

Specific strategies require some research depending on the individual needs of the child because what works for one child may not work for another.

Here are some of our favourite resources that can help with planning specific strategies, which can be especially helpful in maintaining gains made throughout the school year.