top of page

Guide to Childhood Executive Functioning

Executive Functioning is essential in allowing humans to manage thoughts, actions, emotions, as well as plan, manage time, and organize. It is commonly known and accepted that Executive Functioning is integral to adults in every realm of life, from work to relationships, but these skills develop from childhood and require time and support. For this reason, parents, caregivers, and educators need to understand the complexities of Executive Functioning and how it impacts children and students.

Executive Functioning is of critical importance for children and is often observed and influenced heavily by the educational expectations on students. Executive Function can affect your student and children in a multitude of ways every day:

  • Homework is a daily exercise in executive functioning, as students are required to remember to do and turn in the homework but also need to understand the requirements and timelines. Even seemingly simple acts such as putting your name on the paper can be chalked up to the development of executive functioning.

  • Adults use planners every day to track deadlines, meetings, appointments, and in general organize and plan. However, both short- and long-term planning strategies require executive functioning and therefore utilization of planners is not always feasible at the same time for each student.

  • Basic organizational skills such as maintaining folders, backpacks, lockers, and desks can often be of critical importance for students, just as a clean and maintained bedroom is often a developmental milestone for children. Your kid isn’t always a slob; Sometimes, they are just developing.

  • A solid sense of time is also an operation of cognitive functioningand can include time management, setting realistic timelines, and arriving on-time for activities.

  • Cognitive Functioning is responsible for detailed work, and you may notice missing assignment details, misunderstanding expectations or directions, and failing to carefully review answers before submission of assignments.

  • Don’t be too frustrated when your child calls you because they forget their poster for school; Preparation is a key milestone in the development of cognitive functioning, and this means that forgotten materials are common and developmentally appropriate.

  • While this may come as a bit of a surprise, a student or child that does not ask for help, doesn’t utilize teachers as a resource, and doesn’t clarify questions is actually displaying cognitive functioning skills that are not fully-developed.

As you can see, cognitive functioning has very concrete effects on children and the development of these skills can often be marked with frustration, feeling overwhelmed, lacking focus, and even poor grades. But don’t be discouraged: executive functioning continues to develop well into our 20s, and as a skill it can get better with time and practice. So, let’s talk about how we can help our children and students develop effective cognitive functioning.

There are countless ways to support your children who struggle with executive functioning.

  • As with most things in life, it is easier to learn and grow if you get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise. Start with the basics and build from there.

  • It is proven that children thrive with routines, which also help develop executive functioning skills related to planning and preparation.

  • Not every child is the same. Therefore, you may need to spend some time personalizing systems that will help your unique child or student learn to organize, prepare, focus, and take ownership of their growth.

  • Encourage your students and children at every sign of success. This positive reinforcement is reassuring and does wonders for continued perseverance in building cognitive functioning skills.

  • Don’t let executive functioning challenges tell a story that is not true. It is important to let your child know that cognitive functioning challenges do not equate to stupidity, laziness, or failure. Executive functioning is simply a skill that takes time to mature, and we need to support our children in their journey.

The development of executive functioning skills can take time, support, resources, and love. Children will learn these important skills, but as a parent or educator you are wonderful resource for knowledge, support, and love. You can’t rush the process, but you can make it easier.

Georgia Autism Center provides assessment, diagnosis, coordination of care, educational planning or assistance with the development of IEPs, and support for families of children with special needs. For more information visit

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page