Exploding head

ADHD and Executive Functioning…What a Mess!

Exploding head

Hyperactivity and impulsivity?  The inability to stay on task?  They form a pattern of chronic difficulties in executing daily dask.

Executive functioning is a cognitive management system of the human brain.  They are very specific, divided into more distinct skills that typically develop during childhood and adolescence.

Executive function can be divided into two groups.  Organizational issues involve gathering information and structuring it for evaluation.  Regulation takes stock of surrounding and changing behavior in response to it.

There’s no single test to identify problems with it.  Instead, experts rely on different tests that measure specific skills.

Problems are typically established during the transition to sixth and ninth grades.  It is critical for teachers and parents pay attention for specific changes.  Children will not simply grow out-of-it.

The model shows 6 separate clusters, which continually work together.  Resulting from rapid stresses done unconsciously, it helps to manage both individual and complex tasks of daily life.


  • Activation;  Organizing, prioritizing, implementing.
  • Focus:  Sustaining, shifting, distracting.
  • Effort:  Attempting, processing speed, alertness.
  • Emotion:  Managing frustration, modulating perspective, controlling anger.
  • Memory:  Working memory, accessing recall, holding onto multiple tasks.
  • Action:  Monitoring, regulating, interacting.

There are multiple signs of executive-function deficit.  One of the most visible is the inability to handle frustration and complete tasks.  Facing challenges in starting and organizing can often be a hidden symptom of deficits.

These challenges become obstacles in completing tasks both in and outside of school settings.  Additionally they make it difficult to start and continue tasks.

  • Use visual cues, compared to verbal ones.
  • Be willing to negotiate, rather than dictate.
  • Make them full partners of routines.
  • Forced actions/coerced participation unlikely to succeed.
  • Identify potential obstacles to overcome goals.

Executive functioning is a general term, not a diagnostic label.  As a result, it is a symptom of many diagnostic conditions.  These cognitive functions activate, integrate and control other functions of the mind.  Teachers and parents of children and adolescents with ADHD should be mindful.






4 responses to “ADHD and Executive Functioning…What a Mess!”

  1. Peachie Storr Avatar
    Peachie Storr

    I found this article very insightful giving me further understanding into what is going on with my own child. Thanks

    1. Edie Brown Avatar
      Edie Brown

      Executive functioning disorder impacts both home and school. How does it affect your child?

  2. Stephen de Jager Avatar

    Having only been diagnosed with ADHD in my early 30s,i can appreciate this article on a deep and resonant level. It is always difficult to organise and prioritise task and to remain focused on the task at hand once I have started.

    Great article. Thank you.

    1. Edie Brown Avatar
      Edie Brown

      ADHD diagnosis is common in children, but adults have a tougher time. It affects the workplace every day. There’s a blog post on Adults with ADHD. How can I help?

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