Executive function is a group of mental processes that enable us to organize information and control our behaviors to achieve goals.

It is like the CEO of our brain, responsible for communicating with different parts of the brain to organize, coordinate, and delegate resources to help us plan, initiate, and complete goal-directed activities effectively.

Children who are weak in executive functioning skills might exhibit difficulties such as:

  • paying attention in class,
  • forgetting to hand in homework,
  • interrupting others,
  • struggling to follow multi-step directions,
  • frequently losing personal possessions,
  • feeling frustrated with changes in routines,
  • and procrastinating to start work.

Executive function can be classified into three overarching domains namely,

  1. Working Memory,
  2. Mental Flexibility, and
  3. Self-Control.

When these distinct (yet interrelated) mental processes work in harmony; they allow us to:

  • think about what we need to do,
  • prioritize tasks,
  • make a plan about how to get it done,
  • start the task timely,
  • focus during the task,
  • anticipate problems and solve them,
  • solve unexpected problems,
  • and eventually complete the task.

Ultimately, executive functioning skills facilitate behaviors that promote productivity and goal attainment.

Quiz: Let’s check in

Children who have executive function difficulties are lazy.



Children with weak executive functioning skills might find it hard to think through the steps to complete a project.



Executive function difficulties are not seen in children who are smart.



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  • National Center for Learning Disabilities, Inc. (2013). Executive Function 101. Retrieved from https://www.chconline.org/resourcelibrary/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/executivefunction101ebook_344.pdf
  • National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, & National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs. (2011). Building the brain’s “air traffic control” system: How early experiences shape the development of executive function (Working Paper No. 11). Harvard University, Center on the Developing Child. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/How-Early-Experiences-Shape-the-Development-of-Executive-Function.pdf
  • Reeve, C. (n.d.). 5 truths about executive functioning you need to know. Autism Classroom Resources. https://autismclassroomresources.com/myths-executive-functioning-skills/
  • Valentin and Blackstock Psychology. (n.d.). Executive functions: The brain’s CEO. http://www.vbpsychology.com/executive-functions-brain-ceo/