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  • Writer's pictureLiz Morrison, LCSW

What is Executive Functioning?

Recently, you may have heard the term Executive Functioning (EF). Maybe your child’s teacher has mentioned it or maybe you overheard it at work. Either way, it’s a term we assume we should know, but I’m here to tell you it’s okay if this term is new to you.

Many researchers view executive functioning as encompassing three main skills that allow a person to organize and plan as well as manage their emotions and thoughts in order to be productive. The three main areas are working memory, flexible thinking/cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control/self-control. Working memory is the ability to retain, process and hold onto information. Flexible thinking allows one to look at a situation from another perspective and be open minded to new ideas and ways of thinking. Inhibitory control enables a person to stayed focused and ignore distractions.

The main skills that executive functioning impacts are:

  1. Organization and planning

  2. Time-management

  3. Focused attention

  4. Remaining on task for an extended amount of time

  5. Self-monitoring

What might this look like in the classroom or in the office?

Poor executive functioning skills often show up among children in the classroom. Have you ever seen a student with strong reading comprehension skills, but when asked a question about the passage is unable to answer it? That could be due to a weak working memory. The child can read the passage, but then struggles to hold onto the information to answer a comprehension question. Another way weak EF skills are exemplified in the classroom is when a child completes the homework and then forgets to hand it in


Have you ever walked into work ready to have a productive day, made a to do list but when the clock hits 5:00 PM you realize you barely made it halfway down the list? This is another example of weak EF skills.

If you feel that you or child struggles with time management, planning and prioritizing, or paying attention at school or work, it might be time to seek help and get some support. We are all capable and have so much potential. Being able to know how to learn and work in a way that works best for you will help lead to greater success.

Ali Hamroff can be reached by email at or by calling 347.758.2985.


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