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What is Executive Function?

Your teenager or young adult may have difficulty with executive functioning (EF) if he or she:

  • Has difficulty focusing, is easily distracted, or has trouble keeping track of time
  • Has trouble following directions, completing projects, or switching between tasks
  • Gets overly emotional or fixated on things
  • Is forgetful about responsibilities, including tasks like job or college applications
  • Finds it challenging to work in groups
  • Is unrealistic or overly optimistic about what it will take to get a job done
  • Finds it hard to understand others' point of view

What are Executive Function Skills?

Executive function (EF) skills are the thought processes that allow us to plan, focus, remember steps, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. EF issues are common in children and teenagers with learning and/or attention issues. Executive functioning impacts a person’s ability to keep and work with information, switch gears during task performance, maintain focus, and filter out distractions. These skills are critical for learning and personal development, in addition to academic and job performance.

Executive function touches on three kinds of brain function: self-control, working memory, and flexible thinking. When these functions are working at a high level, the individual exhibits positive behaviors, which lead to healthy choices and generally higher self-esteem.

The Good News

We aren’t born with executive functioning skills, but we are born with the ability to develop them starting at an early age. Very importantly, when there are EF deficits, they can often be overcome through therapy and personal coaching.

I help clients with executive function issues by:

  • Exploring and identifying goals
  • Developing plans to achieve short- and long-term goals
  • Perspective-taking exercises to understand the motivations and views of others
  • Teaching skills to prioritize and sequence competing tasks
  • Using behavioral activation to promote engagement in positive and healthy activities
  • Implementing exercises to enhance organization and time management
  • Establishing structure and routines for daily life
 

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