Executive Functions

Executive functions like planning, initiative, problem solving, and more are so important to the success of every day endeavors. Those who have them appreciate the benefits but probably don’t stop to think about them very often since they occur almost automatically and without a great deal of effort. But what about those who lack executive functions? They can be taught, but only through time-consuming methods that are often difficult to implement consistently. My son, who has a lot of raw ability, lacks many areas of executive functioning. His impulsivity, distractibility, and working memory issues override his higher cognitive processes, with the result that he is like an orchestra without a conductor. The musicians may all be talented, but if they are playing different songs at different times in different keys the result is neither impressive nor desirable. This must be true for so many who feel like they are underachieving and not living up to their own or others’ expectations of them. How frustrating it must be to have people tell you how much you could do if only you would get your act together. Easy to say, but excruciatingly painful to someone who is not efficient when it comes to getting things done despite their best efforts. Such a person may spend ten times as long to get equivalent results as an individual for whom executive functioning comes naturally.

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