Tips for Students with Executive Functioning Disorders

written by: Eagle Hill School
What is an executive functioning disorder? We hear and use this term a lot in the learning (dis)abled community, but because it’s such a broad topic, there is often confusion about what executive functioning disorders are and what the issues look like. This article will provide both an overview of the problems many students face, and some tips that can help make living with these challenges easier.

What’s Executive Functioning?

“Executive function” is the part of the brain that keeps all the other parts in order—it’s responsible for making sure that everything gets done. These responsibilities range from planning to memory and organization.

What Kind of Issues Does My Child Experience?

A child with an executive functioning disorder might experience a myriad of issues—and no two children are the same in the types of issues they experience. Some of the more significant areas where issues may present themselves for students with an executive functioning disorder are:
  • Prioritizing
  • Planning
  • Time tracking
  • Organization
  • Analysis of abstract ideas
  • Research
These areas are all different but requisite steps in executive functioning—they are basically the order of operations that make accomplishing tasks possible. As you can see, students who have difficulty in only a few of these areas might have an easier time than those children who suffer with many or all of these processes.

Just how prevalent executive functioning issues are is hard to determine, since many students diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD and other learning differences experience similar or identical issues.

What Can My Child Do?

The issues your child is experiencing might feel insurmountable to them, but there are a variety of techniques that can be implemented at home and at school, in addition to seeking professional counsel.
  • Use a planner. Using a planner, whether it’s physical or digital, can help show your child what their days and weeks look like, and how much time they’ll need to devote to the tasks they have.
  • Make a checklist. Using a daily checklist is extremely useful, not just in school, but in the professional world as well. The checklist should be prioritized according to the planner and/or calendar being used—allowing students to understand what needs to be done today to enable tomorrow to go smoothly.
  • Be patient. This applies to students, teachers, and parents. Being patient both with yourself and your child will teach them patience and compassion for themselves while they learn to live with and overcome their challenges.
  • Reach out. Connecting with other parents who have had, or are going through, similar struggles can provide an enormous amount of strength and reassurance.
  • Find a professional. Finally, if the challenges you’re facing seem too great for both your child and yourself, consider reaching out for professional help in dealing with your child’s executive functioning disorder.
Helping students develop skills early in life and in their education will enable them to have a great deal of success later on. By taking steps now to help them recognize and deal with the issues that trouble them, you’ll set your child up for success later on in life.
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What is Learning Diversity About?

Learning Diversity is a blog hosted by Eagle Hill School where educators, students, and other members of the LD community regularly contribute posts and critical essays about learning and living in spaces that privilege the inevitability of human diversity.

The contributors of Learning Diversity come together to engage our readers from a variety of disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, biological sciences and mathematics, athletics, and residential life. Embracing learning diversity means understanding and respecting our students as whole persons.


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