You Mean There’s a Name for That?

Being unorganized. Losing things. Feeling overwhelmed by daily activities. Difficulty managing your responsibilities at home and work/school. There is actually a name for the set of skills needed to be successful in these various areas and more – Executive Functioning Skills.

If I were in a room with you right now, I would ask for a show of hands as to how many of you either 1) have heard of them 2) understand what the phrase means or 3) feels confident that you have the knowledge and understanding to teach them to others. Based on conversations I’ve had with teachers and parents over the years, my guess is that more people would raise their hands for the first choice than they would for the third choice.

According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, executive functioning skills are the skills necessary in order for a person to “plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully.” These are the vital life skills we need to organize our day, create and work toward goals, and live successful, rewarding lives. All individuals with ADHD struggle with their executive functioning skills, but there are others out there who don’t have ADHD who also experience difficulty in this area. People who struggle with their executive functioning skills experience difficulties in many facets of their lives.

1) Organization – while this is an area of difficulty for many people, individuals who have weak executive functioning skills struggle even more. It is hard for them to sift through all of the information they receive on a minute by minute basis, manipulate it, process it, pull from it what they need, store it in memory to pull from later, or even realize it’s information that can just be dumped altogether. This disorganization can appear to others as just sloppiness or a lack of caring on the part of the individual, but that is far from the case.

2) Starting tasks – because an individual with poor executive functioning skills struggles to be organized when presented with tasks, it is that much more difficult for him or her to even begin a task. While a neurotypical individual can get right to it, a neurodiverse individual will often become stressed or anxious just trying to determine where to start. This in turn can cause that individual’s family, friends, co-workers, and boss to assume that the individual is indifferent or unmotivated.

3) Prioritizing – in addition to the difficulties that a person with executive functioning struggles has with just organizing and starting tasks, he or she also struggles to prioritize them. Therefore, what often happens is that the budget report which is due by 5pm is given the same amount of attention as the presentation that is being given in a few days. While these are both important tasks, a person with executive functioning skills has a hard time discerning when and how much effort to give to each project.

There are a myriad of other ways that a person struggles when they have poor executive functioning skills, but the good news is that there also a myriad of different strategies for overcoming these challenges. If you desire more information for yourself, a friend, co-worker, or loved one – I can help! Visit my website for more information or to request a consultation.

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