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Insufficiently developed executive functions may be blamed if a student:

  • has difficulties initiating the task;
  • is unable to plan performance of complex task;
  • does not follow teacher speaking for longer periods of time;
  • Loses track of time while performing a task;
  • is easily distracted by noise;
  • blurts answers out of his place without rising his hand or waiting his turn;
  • forgets task requirements in the process of performing the task;
  • has difficulty shifting between tasks.

Surely all children have these difficulties from time to time (recall that executive functions develop throughout childhood and adolescence) and need adult supervision in dealing with them, however, if a child constantly struggles with these issues and his academic results suffer, we may suspect problems with executive functions.

Deficient executive functions are common in several childhood disorders, including ADHD and autism spectrum disorders. Many researchers believe that problems with executive functions may be the key defficiency in these conditions, resulting in problems with attention, self-regulation and social behavior. Executive function may also come along with specific learning disabilities or emotion and behavior problems, however, they may sometimes manifest when no other condition has been diagnosed.

Executive function difficulties will most probably first become evident in elementary school, but as schoolwork gets harder and students are asked to be more independent learners, children with weak executive skills fall further and further behind.