ADHD and Executive Functioning
Individuals do not develop their Executive Functioning skills at the same time, at the same rate or to the same degree as their peers. By adolescence it is expected that a reasonably solid foundation is in place for the Executive Functioning skills of:
• Adaptable thinking and being able to adjust to unforeseen events and not to stumble over everyday hurdles or differences of opinion,
• The Ability to plan and prioritize tasks that need to be accomplished,
• Self-monitoring and the ability to evaluate their performance on a task and know what adjustments may need to be made along the way,
• Self-control to restrain themselves from physical or emotional outbursts and to manage the impulses that make them react without thinking,
• Using working memory to retain and store learned information to use what they remember in the short term,
• Time Management and the ability to prioritize tasks onto a properly organised schedule to allow them to be productive and punctual.
Executive Functioning is the self-management system of the brain. ADHD impacts on the development of this system which in turn impacts a person's ability to plan and achieve their goals. Executive Functioning skills are vital for growth and development as they allow us to efficiently arrange materials or thoughts in an orderly fashion, tell a succinct story, keep track of possessions, and manage emotionally challenging situations. The Executive Functions in ADHD can have strengths and weaknesses in different areas e.g., they may know what to do to complete a task but they may have trouble knowing when and how to apply the appropriate skills, or they may have all the required materials but may not be able to formulate a plan for using them.
Fortunately, there are some easy ways to help improve Executive Functioning. With insight into the type of challenges the person with ADHD is facing, the correct skills and strategies, possibly including medication, can have a life-long impact on their confidence, independence, and success. It is also never too late to help someone build their core capabilities as brain plasticity means that even an adult brain can build the complex networks required for Executive Functioning and Self-regulation.
An adult who builds their core capabilities has the double benefit of it being essential for their own success as parents and professionals, and for the development of the same capabilities by the children in their care.
The symptoms of ADHD result in delayed Executive Functioning development. It is important to remember that intelligence has nothing to do with these skills and that it may not be possible for a person with ADHD to improve these skills on their own.
The correct support can go a long way to improve the quality of life of a person with challenges in Executive Functioning.