In the great machinery of the mind, there are many cogs and gears that help us complete day to day tasks and be successful people in life. You could say the Executive Function of the brain is like the main CPU or the management system of the brain. Executive Function is what enables us to focus on things, create plans, remember steps and instructions, and multi-task. It’s a system of prioritizing and filtering, helping us get to the end product or achieve our goals.
Executive function comprises Working Memory, Cognitive Flexibility, and Inhibitory/Self Control. Our working memory aids our ability to retain and manipulate distinct pieces of information over time. Cognitive Flexibility shifts our attention to different demands and rules dependent upon different settings. Self-Control aids us in making the correct social calls and utilizing impulse control.
Executive functions are located in the frontal lobes of the brain and begin to develop in early childhood as the prefrontal cortex develops, then continue through adolescence into young adulthood. As the child grows, so do the parents’ expectation of generally having the three main facets working like a charm. But, as we learn with our children about their own special minds and bodies, problems with executive function become more apparent as children age and milestones are not met regarding their ability to self-govern and make correct use of their time with school and other activities. Executive functions are what organize the things happening in working memory and connecting the visual and auditory examples of phoneme and grapheme is made even more difficult when the brain can’t sort out what it’s seeing. Sensory learning is key as information goes to working memory secondary to your senses first.
If there are struggles with executive function on top of dyslexia, students can be strongly impacted in many ways. Many examples fall in line with poor organization, failure of completing and prioritizing tasks, and having a hard time following directions or sequence of steps. Time management and breaking out of routines are extremely difficult, and things as simple as keeping school supplies together can be monumental tasks for those suffering with executive functioning disorders.
There are many ways to help enforce good habits, and with consistency and routine, progress can be made. Time management is key; keeping detailed calendars and schedules, along with checklists, can help. As the functions of logic and planning, we all need executive function to conduct ourselves in the world. Some of us just need a little finer tuning. For more help, contact your Certified Academic Language Therapist or schedule a meeting with Dyslexia On Demand at www.dyslexdiaondemand.com to receive more information!