What is executive functioning?
The general definition is that executive functioning refers to the set of mental processes occurring in our prefrontal cortex, allowing us to self-regulate and engage in goal-directed behavior.
Many people often link executive functioning with traits like organization, task completion, and being on time. However, it's important to remember that these external symptoms result from internal processes happening in one's head, influencing external behaviors.
Understanding the symptoms and behaviors is critical for recognizing when a student needs intervention in this area. However, it's equally important to understand how these external symptoms align with internal processes so we know how to intervene. When implementing strategies, we want to be aware of the intricate mental processes at play. One common mistake, even with well-intentioned interventions, is overlooking these internal mental processes that are at play when doing simple day-to-day tasks that may seem mundane or common sense.
When it comes to executive functioning, there's a common perception that someone with good executive functioning is organized. They show up on time, effortlessly keep track of their belongings, and consistently submit assignments on time. While these external behaviors indicate strong executive functioning, they represent only a fraction of the whole picture. Teams working on interventions might have some components in place, often concentrating on these visible aspects but possibly overlooking the broader spectrum of executive functioning challenges and their associated internal processes.
This Ask the Expert is an excerpt from the course Executive Functioning for School-Age Children: It's More Than Being Organized, Part 1, presented by Karen Dudek-Brannan, EdD, CCC-SLP.