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Academic and Life Coaching for 
Adults and Adolescents with ADHD & Executive Function Disorder
 Tel: 201-785-7820 

What are Executive Functions?

ADHD is a complex neurobiological condition where the neurotransmitters in the brain do not work properly or efficiently.  Individuals with ADHD will have problems with attention and/or hyperactivity. In addition, ADHD is accompanied with problems with Executive Functions deficits. These functions control the ability to be organized, get started, stay on task, manage time and remember information.

Executive Functions have a similar role as a conductor of an orchestra coordinating various instruments for a harmonious symphony. The conductor brings in certain instruments at the right time, directs them to play alone or with other instruments, manages the pace and level of intensity of the music and brings about beautiful and integrated harmony as opposed to a clashing sound! Likewise, executive functions regulate and directs behavior and emotions to accomplish goals, tasks and outcomes.  

Orchestra Conductor on Stage

Executive Function Definitions

Peg Dawson and Richard Guare, experts and researchers in ADHD, have identified 11 discrete executive functioning skills and offer their definitions:

  • Response Inhibition: is the capacity to think before you act – this ability to resist the urge to say or do something allows us the time to evaluate a situation and how our behavior might impact it.

  • Working Memory: The ability to hold information in memory while performing complex tasks. It involves the ability to draw on past learning or experience to apply to the situation at hand or to project into the future. For example, Math requires remembering steps and orders of operation, and facts in order to solve a problem.

  • Emotional Control: The ability to manage emotions in order to achieve goals, complete tasks, or control and direct behavior.

  • Flexibility: The ability to change or revise plans in the face of obstacles, setbacks, new information or mistakes.  It relates to an adaptability to changing conditions or situations.

  • Sustained Attention: The capacity to maintain attention to a situation or task in spite of distractibility, fatigue, or boredom.

  • Task Initiation: The ability to begin projects without undue procrastination, in an efficient or timely fashion.

  • Planning/Prioritization:  The ability to create a roadmap to reach a goal or to complete a task. It also involves being able to make decisions about what’s important to focus on and what’s not important.

  • Organization: The ability to create and maintain systems to keep track of information or materials.

  • Time Management: The capacity to estimate how much time one has, how to allocate it, and how to stay within time limits and deadlines. It also involves a sense that time is important.

  • Goal-directed persistence: The capacity to have a goal, follow through to the completion of the goal and not be put off or distracted by competing interests.

  • Metacognition: The ability to stand back and take a birds-eye view of oneself in a situation.  It is an ability to observe how you problem solve. It also includes self-monitoring and self-evaluative skills (e.g., asking yourself, “How am I doing? or How did I do?”).

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