An Explanation of Executive Function

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Boulder Creek Academy

For 23 years, Boulder Creek Academy has welcomed adolescent students with a complex interaction of social, emotional, and academic needs. Boulder Creek Academy helps many of its students to cope with and adapt to executive function challenges.

In recent years, the term “executive function” has received widespread attention in the fields of education and psychology. It refers to the interrelated processes that allow a person to work toward a goal while managing the inner impulses that can lead one astray. Executive functioning is responsible for the ability to gather, structure, and apply information, as well as for the flexibility that lets one change an established plan in response to external circumstances.

Individuals with strong executive functioning have the internal motivation to begin a task and the ability to work through its planning. They can bring order to complex sensory input, categorize that information which is relevant to the task at hand, and monitor how well they are progressing toward task completion. They have command of these skills along with the ability to use rational thought to manage emotional response and focus on developing a solution.

Children learn executive functioning skills over the course of their development, although a number of factors can interrupt this learning. Many children struggle with executive function due to a genetic predisposition, while others may experience lifestyle stressors that get in the way of skill building. When this occurs, parents and teachers can help fill in the gaps with targeted interventions.