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What are Executive Functioning Skills?

Some of us may have heard of the term “Executive functioning skills” floating around on blogs or other forums which is often associated with learning disabilities like ADHD, or sometimes applied to any learning difficulty. Whatever the context may be, it may have raised certain questions in our mind like “what are Executive functioning skills?” “Does my child/ student suffer from it?” “ How do I help them?”.
When you think about ‘learning’ milestones in children, academics and socio-emotional learning are always on the top. In order to achieve them, the recipe lies in something we call ‘ Executive functions’.

So let’s begin with, what are Executive functioning skills?

By definition, an Executive functioning skill is the ability to plan, pay attention, remember instructions, and manage multiple tasks simultaneously. Simply put, Executive functioning skills are the brain’s air traffic control system. We can filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses with their help.

Now let’s break it down to its dimensions;

Flexible Thinking: The ability to adjust our attention to changes in requirements, priorities, and viewpoints.
Let’s think about an example, say the child has a playdate with another kid but they find out that their friend is sick. In a normal situation, the child will reschedule a different time to meet. In the absence of cognitive flexibility, however, as they struggle to understand that they can reschedule and do something different that day, they may become emotionally upset and distressed.

Inhibitory Control: Refusing impulsive actions, setting priorities, and allowing oneself to pause and think before acting in order to focus and accomplish a task.
Let’s take an easy example, a child with great inhibitory skills can easily finish his/ her studies on time without getting distracted. If a child keeps getting distracted while studying, he/ she might have weak inhibition skills.

Working Memory: The ability of retaining information, manipulating it, and utilizing it to succeed in navigating your environment.
For example, in school a child is able to complete an easy math problem mentally. Whereas a child with weak working memory may not recall what they are even supposed to do with the numbers.

Why does Executive functioning skills matter?
Many research proves that it matters especially for students as they need it for their academic success. Not only does it apply for children but it follows through adolescence and early adulthood, let’s just say that Executive functioning skills is a vital part of healthy human development.

How can you spot students that lack Executive functioning skills?
It’s definitely not an easy thing to spot in the distance. We can keep an eye to identify some signs that the student may show at home or school, like, inability to see others’ viewpoints,
inability to control big emotions, difficulty with change, forgetting routines in class, lack of attention, impatient in class/home.

Interested in finding out more? Contact Dr. Anupma Sethi at +1-669-900-2315 to know more about Executive functioning skills

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