Executive functioning is a term that describes the cognitive processes involved in carrying out everyday tasks, such as planning ahead, following through on commitments, and solving problems.
It is a mental process that enables a person to focus attention and juggle multiple tasks successfully. When these cognitive processes are disrupted they can lead to problems with concentration, day-to-day decision-making, and organizing one’s thoughts.
Challenges with executive functioning skills is the main link between all of the neurodiverse conditions, which goes some way to explain why many of the conditions overlap each other.
Poor executive functioning is one of the most common reasons for
- poor performance
- attention and problems paying attention
- difficulty concentrating
Having a good understanding of the challenges people with poor executive functioning face can help to give them the support they need to succeed.
It is important for people to be able to carry out everyday tasks without mistakes. Individuals with poor executive functioning often have trouble doing this and can experience low self esteem and isolation because of it.
The main executive functions:
- Working memory – responsible for the ability to hold onto information until it is needed
- Attention – the ability to focus on important things in a particular context and not be influenced by distractions
- Cognitive flexibility – the ability to switch between different tasks (being able to switch between working memory and attention)
- Inhibitory control – the ability to stop being distracted and focus keeping self control
- Verbal reasoning – described as the person’s ability to make inferences, draw conclusions, and identify main ideas from reading passages. This could include the ability to understand written instructions.
- Mental control – the ability to control one’s own thoughts and emotions without being controlled by others.
When we understand how much of our daily lives rely upon good executive functioning it becomes clear to see why some people struggle more than others. Executive functioning skills are something that many people take for granted.