As humans, we are expected to develop with certain cognitive skills that help us to manage our time, adapt quickly to new problems, and develop long-term plans for success. These cognitive abilities are often referred to as our executive functions.
But some people – typically those with ADHD, though it is not exclusive to the condition – do not develop these executive functions. That can make it more difficult for them to function, and – in turn – cause additional issues like anxiety, depression, difficulties with stress management, social issues, and trouble adapting to the expectations of society.
What Are Your Executive Functions?
There are many cognitive abilities that are considered to be “executive functions” and play a role in executive function disorder. These include, but are not limited to:
- Time Management – One of the core pieces of being able to self-regulate is keeping an eye on the clock and knowing how much time something is going to take us to complete. Being able to develop a schedule and stay cognizant of how that schedule is going is an essential part of daily life. This is known as time management, and is considered to be a key tenant of executive function disorder.
- Multitasking – Regardless of how much someone may feel they are or are not good at multitasking, the reality is that we spend most of our days handling several different topics or problems at once. Being able to balance all of those different factors is essential, and so the ability to “multitask” is considered to be an executive function.
- Memory and Recall – The ability to recall moments or memories off-hand is also an important cognitive function. The ability to recall something quickly and in the moment can help is in school and in our careers.
- Emotional Regulation – Emotional regulation refers to our ability to control our own emotions and allows us to focus on a task or project despite how we may be feeling. This self-regulation skill is essential for handling lots of work at once.
- Problem-Solving Skills – Problem solving skills refer to our natural ability to adapt when confronted with a surprising situation. The skill to pivot and find a new solution is incredibly important in every part of our lives. While context or education can make problem-solving significantly easier at times, our executive function is a measurement of our ability to keep looking for solutions in ways that make sense.
- Focus – Being able to focus without distraction, or finish a task to completion even with things going on around us is also an important skill, and its own executive function.
Some children are unable to develop these executive functions. Most commonly associated with ADHD, children that struggle with these conditions are known to have what’s called “executive function disorder.” They often struggle with focus, time management, complex problem solving, and more. This is called being “neuroatypical.”
Children and adults that have executive function disorder cannot necessarily cure the condition. But what they can do is strengthen their cognitive toolbox and strategies so that they can more effectively live with it in the future. For more information about executive functions and executive function coaching, contact Right Path Counseling, today.