What are Executive Functions?
The term Executive Function (EF) describes a set of skills that reside in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. These cognitive functions help us to plan and organise our responses, behaviour and emotions. These are many of the skills that underpin learning and enable children and adolescents to function with a reasonable degree of independence. For example our executive function skills enable us to keep track of time, stay on task, make plans, to be flexible when things change and to control our impulses. The development of executive skills are crucial for successful learning and relationships and they are foundational skills for later life and work.
EF skills continue to develop until our mid twenties, childhood and adolescence presents an opportunity to embed strong skills early on. However we can continue to work on these skills throughout our lives.
Why do we need EF’s?
People who find using their executive skills challenging often have trouble getting started on tasks, get distracted easily, have organisational, planning and prioritisation struggles, poor working memory, cognitive inflexibility and so forth. At school or university this may impact on their academic work, revision for exams, failure to do or hand in homework, find transitioning difficult. In the working world it may present us putting off the task until the last minute, time management, failing to plan how long something may take and then not finish a task, have short term working memory or find it hard with transitioning of tasks.
These people are often considered chronic underachievers, and are at risk for academic failure, likely to have a poor employment record, as well as have emotional and behavioural difficulties. They are often labelled as lazy. The good news, is due to the malleable nature of the brain’s neural-pathways, we know now that these EF challenges are not fixed and we can make changes to the environment to support children and young people to strengthen their executive function skills. Poor executive functioning can also be a hallmark of neurodiversity profiles such as ADHD, autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia.
Why is neuroplasticity so important to EF development?
Encouragingly our brains, from a neuroplasticity perspective, are not fully developed until at least our mid twenties, giving plenty of scope to support and help young people. Neuroplasticity means that when skills and strategies are taught to overcome EF challenges, especially to children and young people, the neural connections in the brain are rewired and strengthened.
How Can Coaching Help Support Executive Function Skills Development?
Because of the malleable nature of the brain’s neural-pathways, techniques to overcome executive function challenges can be taught; one of the most effective and proven method being coaching conducted by a well trained practitioner. The coaching model we use was originally developed by educational psychologists in the US and is based on two assumptions:
1. Most children and adolescents have an array of executive skills strengths and weaknesses.
2. The primary purpose of identifying areas of weakness is to be able to design and implement interventions to address those weaknesses.
How do I book a coach for my Child?
Our sister organisation Connections in Mind offers executive function coaching. For more information please visit: www.connectionsinmind.co.uk
Or contact them for more information about how they can help improve executive function skills.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 0208 050 1605