Understanding Executive Function Skills in the Brain

Have you heard of Executive Function? After my kids were diagnosed with ADHD I started my research. I wanted to learn all that I could about ADHD and find helpful resources.

During my research I discovered information on Executive Function – a set of skills and processes in our brain (prefrontal cortex) that help us plan, prioritize, start tasks, manage emotions, and make decisions.

What is Executive Function?

Depending on which resource you are using there are slight differences in how the experts identify and define executive function skills.

My favorite resource is the book, Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary “Executive Skills” Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential, by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare. This is a very helpful book with self-assessments and practical advice.

But every time I read a book written by researchers I still ask myself, “How do I use this information in everyday life with my kids?”

How to See Executive Function Skills in Your Kids

My goal with this page (and this entire web site) is to share with you my parenting perspective on HOW to use ADHD and Executive Function research/advice in real life.

Keep scrolling to read about my methods for:

  • “seeing” Executive Function in action in kids,
  • noticing Executive Function weaknesses,
  • noticing Executive Function strengths,
  • finding daily opportunities to help kids practice Executive Function skills,
  • and practical solutions for blending this practice into your child’s regular activities.

Resources for Parents of ADHD Kids

You will find Printables on this web site and packets for sale in my Shop. These items are mostly for the parents and caregivers. I do not want kids with ADHD filling out more worksheets and staring at pieces of paper.

I want ADULTS finding creative ways to boost the child’s confidence. Let’s create effective routines for learning, studying, and daily routines with hands-on strategies. Let’s begin!

Task Initiation

Have you seen a kid stare a their homework and do nothing? You think to yourself, “The homework assignment is easy. It won’t take them that long. What don’t they just do their homework?!”

Well, the problem could be with Task Initiation. If the task (homework) is non-preferred (not interesting) then the act of STARTING the homework (task initiation) could feel like an insurmountable obstacle to the kid.

Instead of prodding a kid to go through the task as it was assigned, brainstorm how you can change-up the task to make it a little bit easier (and maybe more fun!).

Working Memory

Our brains can only hold onto a few pieces of information at one time. If a child is doing a chore at home or trying to studying then are “holding” information in the front of their mind at the SAME TIME they are trying to USE the information. This can feel awkward and the child can forget what they were doing and maybe give up and abandon the task. The next time you see your child being forgetful instead of asking, “Why aren’t you doing your work?” and try some of these ideas.


Planning a multi-step process is part of out daily lives. Something as simple as getting yourself breakfast or getting dressed involves planning your steps in advance of doing them. Use these ideas as a starting point and brainstorm which everyday situations you can set up as Planning practice for your child (without it feeling like actual practice or work). Once kids repeatedly work through a planning process for fun activities (like biking to a friend’s house) then those planning skills can translate to other areas of their life (creating a project for school).

Mental Flexibility

Mental Flexibility is a skill that we can practice throughout our entire lives. Even as an adults I can feel when I’m being inflexible and then I can try to pause and try to adapt. But for kids with ADHD, whose brains are still developing, the act of thinking FLEXIBLY might feel impossible. If we want kids to learn how to use flexible thinking we have to model the process for them and guide them through situations so they can practice. Try using some of these ideas at home.

More info coming soon on Organization, Time Management, Impulse Control, Sustained Attention, Goal-Directed Persistence, and Metacognition!

Free ADHD Study Tips. Study Tools by Jules. Homework Engineer.

Free ADHD Study Tips

Free ADHD activities and worksheets. Download. Print. Study Tools by Jules. Image of a mom and daughter doing homework together.

Free ADHD Printables

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