Executive Function Defined
Executive function is defined as the skills and abilities needed to perform certain tasks that involve planning, sequencing, and management among other things. The area of the brain called the frontal lobe does the bulk of the work for executive function. The Harvard Center for the Developing Child describes this as a traffic control center that controls many runways and many aircraft. This is because executive function is involved in setting goals, arranging tasks, avoiding distractions, and controlling impulses.
Homework requires not only remembering the information that was taught previously, but recalling what to do, how to do it, when to do it and why it needs to be done. It also involves the skill of being able to access previously acquired knowledge and planning or organizing it in a useful way.
Examples of when there is a breakdown in executive functioning skills:
- Anya is a kindergartner who has difficulty making decisions. She will sit and consider her options for a very long time before making a choice. Sometimes she is completely unable to make a decision.
- Bart is a first grader who struggles greatly with changes in his routine or habits. It takes him a long time to transition back to school after a weekend.
- Maliah seems to have difficulties with following multi-step directions. She will complete the first step but needs help from her kindergarten teacher to complete the next step.