Executive Functioning – The Basics

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Boulder Creek Academy
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A therapeutic boarding school, Boulder Creek Academy supports adolescents with complex academic, social, and emotional needs. Boulder Creek Academy welcomes students with executive function challenges, which it addresses via skill building and behavioral health treatment as well as instructional support.

The term “executive functioning” refers to the set of cognitive skills that let an individual organize, plan, and attend to tasks. These skills allow an individual to organize his or her thoughts and use available information to solve problems effectively. When someone has deficits in executive functioning, he or she can find it extremely difficult to start or complete a task, handle interruptions, or change focus. The person also may find it challenging to allocate time according to the needs of a task, or to change plans to adapt to a changing situation.

Executive function also can relate to deficits in control of emotions or impulses. Children with executive function issues may speak without thinking, abandon an assignment in the middle, or overreact to criticism. They may find it particularly difficult to concentrate when they are upset and may be extremely adherent to an original plan of action, even if that plan is not working. Both regulation and organization challenges related to executive function issues may make it difficult for an individual to succeed at school or work, though targeted interventions such as checklists, planners, and even verbal strategy sessions can help with symptom management.