It’s so pervasive that, whether you have it or not, you’ll never notice it. It’s woven into everything we do, so it’s not off on its own setting apart a big space for itself.
While it’s called executive functioning in formal speak, I like to think of it as the ability to think your way out of a wet paper bag.
Consider it this way: Say you’re stuck in a wet paper bag. A large one, of course. Those of you with a well-developed executive function will explore your environment, note the condition of the bag, map out the confines of the bag, possibly test the tensile strength of wet paper and then make your exit. Basically, you will map out a plan for determining the environment, whether you want to get out or not, and then find a systematic manner in which to create your exit. You don’t have to think about doing it, a properly developed executive function is always there, always running and always guiding how you think about thinking.
On the other hand, those without a well-developed sense of executive function, finding themselves in the same wet paper bag, will be dumbfounded. They’ll focus in on the texture of the paper and spend a long time considering what that texture means. They’ll look up at the top of the bag and try to jump out and become quite frustrated when they can’t standing leap fifteen feet straight up. They’ll wander around the periphery of the bag again and again. They’ll do other stuff in between the actual actions, like sit down and think about planes. Or wish they had some string, maybe. Or convince themselves they like being in a wet paper bag and don’t want to get out. There is no plan. Nothing systematic is accomplished. Cause and effect are things possibly mentioned in that one science class they spent watching out the window.
Around the time of puberty, the frontal part of the cortex of the brain matures, allowing individuals to perform higher-level tasks like those required in executive function. Think of executive function as what the chief executive officer of a company must do — analyze, organize, decide, and execute. Very similarly, the six steps of executive function are:
1. Analyze a task
2. Plan how to address the task
3. Organize the steps needed to carry out the task
4. Develop timelines for completing the task
5. Adjust or shift the steps, if needed, to complete the task
6. Complete the task in a timely way
Kids with executive function disorder (EFD), and that’s a pretty high percentage of kids with AD(H)D and learning disabilities, can be assigned a task like any other student. The problem is, this kid with EFD won’t approach it logically. The dude will let it wait until the last minute and then whip out whatever there’s time for.
Which is why it’s so important that we function as very talkative brains for our young dudes and dudettes. Even if they don’t have EFD, it’s a great idea to go over a project, work work with him to organize himself and get a timeline set up. Then as she’s working on the project, get back in and talk about whether or not she needs to adjust or change the steps.
It’s the working together part, him seeing you how do these things, helping to do them on his own, that will enable him to develop his own set of executive functions. So let’s get out there and get to work.
Share on Facebook