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  • Rachel Maizel, LMSW

What is Executive Functioning?

Updated: Feb 8

Executive functioning and your child

Fall usually feels like a fresh start for your child, almost like the beginning of a

new year! It could be that the school year is finally coming to fruition, or there’s a

new class schedule, or even a new routine. Along with these fresh starts, it is

imperative to freshen up the strategies and tools to help your child become their most

productive self.

Executive function refers to the skills and mental processes that enable us to

successfully plan, focus our attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple

tasks. It is imperative for our brains to be able to filter out distractions, prioritize tasks,

set/achieve goals, and control impulses.

As a Certified Clinical ADHD Service Provider (ADHD—CCSP), executive

function works hand in hand with ADHD specific therapy. However, your child does

not have to struggle with ADHD to benefit from executive function coaching.

improve their critical thinking, problem-solving, decision making, planning, and task


One of my biggest tips when it comes to executive function coaching is

learning to choose our words carefully when it comes to goal setting. Often when we

set goals for ourselves, they are large and vague. For example, “work on ___ project”

or “get good grades.” While these goals are a great start, they can leave us feeling

more overwhelmed and unmotivated than we were before, causing us to keep

bumping those goals back onto our calendar. My best suggestion when it comes to

goal setting is to make your goals specific, time-oriented, and attainable.

For example, you could change your goal from “Finish my science project” to

“Read a chapter of my textbook every day and then create 1-2 PowerPoint slides on

the information learned. Have my project completed in 2 weeks.”

The difference between these two goals is huge! It is so important to put effort

into being specific and intentional with your goals because it will help guide your

child on how to achieve them.

If your child or teen experiences difficulties in finishing tasks, keeping track of

assignments, frequently losing or misplacing things, or has difficulty managing time,

he or she may struggle with executive functioning skills. Therapy is instrumental in

aiding ADHD and executive functioning skills.

If your child is a struggling learner, it will help them to know that they have

trusted and supportive adults on their side in school, at home, and outside of school as

well. Academics are more challenging for children with ADHD and executive

functioning difficulties. Strong therapeutic relationships help to keep your child

accountable outside of school in achieving their goals, but also help your child to feel

safe, respected, and valued. Once this foundation is established, true learning and

progress can happen.

Interested in learning more about executive functioning skills and how they can benefit you? Feel free to get in touch with Rachel for a free 15-minute phone consultation. She can answer any questions you have, see whether you and she are a good fit, and start working toward a better future today.


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