The Importance of Executive FunctioningAuthor: Dr. Ari Goldstein
Executive functioning skills are necessary for adequate performance in all areas of daily life. These skills allow us to organize our behavior. They help us plan activities, sustain attention, complete tasks and achieve long-term goals. By definition, executive functioning involves the psychological processes which impact an individual's awareness of his or her thoughts and actions, and the ability to problem solve for the purpose of a future goal. Executive skills include components of reasoning, attention, planning, inhibition, set-shifting, working memory and the ability to regulate interference. These skills allow individuals to problem solve and identify and achieve goals.
One highly important aspect of executive functioning is metacognition. Metacognitive skills include the ability to plan, monitor, and problem solve and are important in executive functioning abilities with regard to learning. Metacognitive skills involve thinking about thinking.
Executive skills can be measured through the use of certain tests and rating scales. Tests usually measure the individuals ability to plan, shift flexibly, initiate tasks efficiently, self monitor, problem solve, and use their working memory. Some rating scales measure these by rating the everyday activities of children. The scales measure things like inhibition, ability to shift, emotional control, task initiation, working memory, ability to plan, organizational skills, and self monitoring.
The development of these skills correlates with the neurological development of the pre-frontal regions of the brain. Throughout childhood, frequent stimulation of this region helps develop strong executive skills. As with other learning disabilities, problems with these skills have a genetic component. It can be seen at any age, but it often becomes apparent as children move through the elementary grades. During these years, the demands of completing homework independently raises red flags for executive dysfunction.
Learning executive and organizational strategies and practicing consistent routines can help students achieve great success both in school and in their personal lives. The earlier students adopt and implement executive functioning strategies, the easier problem solving is for them.
Areas of instruction should include:
• Setting up and teaching long-term use of an individualized folder system
• Locker/backpack organization strategies and skills
• Color coding systems for organizing notes and materials
• Creating concept maps and linear outlines using an interactive writing program
• Direct instruction on the use of daily planners/assignment notebooks, including time
management, longitudinal project breakdown, and exam/test preparation scheduling.
• Test preparation strategies for all subjects and content area
• Reading strategies to improve comprehension and retention of material
At Cognitive Solutions Learning Center in Chicago, we offer a range of testing and remediation programs for executive functioning difficulties. Please feel free to contact us at www.helpforld.com
The Cognitive Solutions approach was developed by founder Dr. Ari Goldstein during the past two decades of teaching and assessing children and adults with special needs in both the private and public sectors. Dr. Goldstein holds a Master's degree in Learning Disabilities and a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Illinois. He has conducted research in the areas of learning disabilities, cognitive development, executive functioning, and meta-cognition. Dr. Goldstein has also completed post-graduate training in psychological and educational assessment, and is a certified Illinois Learning Specialist. He holds memberships in the National Association of School Psychologists, the Council for Exceptional Children, the Learning Disabilities Association of Illinois, the Association of Educational Therapists, and the American Psychological Association, and has been awarded the CEC's Certificate as a Professionally Recognized Special Educator. Dr. Goldstein has appeared on WGN, NBC, and CBS as an educational contributor.