Executive functioning skills is not a phrase that many parents are aware of. Indeed, they typically first understand there’s a problem when someone working in a nursery, or a preschool highlights the issue. If that rings true to you or doubts have arisen, know that you’re not alone.
It’s also possible to be an attentive parent by looking for any signs of executive functioning concerns. No single functioning difficulty confirms it – there might be multiple behavioural indicators – and each child is unique.
Here are 5 signs that your child might need assistance with their executive functioning skills.
1. They're Easily Distracted
Kids are highly active and animated; they jump from one idea to the next. Particularly with an only child, it’s tricky for a mother or father to spot the issue while lacking a reliable frame of reference. This is where staff at a preschool or a nursery may see something you haven’t up until now.
Because executive functioning skills are part of broader ADHD symptoms, your child’s ability to stay with one activity and not get distracted is severely impacted.
2. Working Memory Issues
Children with executive functioning difficulties can experience working memory issues.
You can think of working memory as the ability to hold a subject in their mind, maintain it there, and stay on task. For affected children, this can play out in a variety of ways. For example, they may be less conscious of time unless there’s a clock near them. For a timed task – such as a school test – working memory issues make it harder for children to be mindful of time.
Parents need to know that a child with a working memory problem does not do it deliberately. It is a little like the phrase: ‘Out of sight, out of mind’. Visual aids and making activities physical help to remind your child of what’s currently important.
3. They're Overly Tired
Focusing on one activity and tiring sooner than other kids their age is another indicator.
Children with executive functioning problems can burn themselves out by playing, studying, or performing other activities with excessive intensity.
Their ability to self-regulate energy expenditure is more limited. You can help by insisting that they pace themselves and take regular short breaks.
4. Difficulty Problem Solving
Children improve their problem-solving abilities as infants through to their teenage years.
Learning by doing, children become better able to manage life’s challenges. For younger children, being patient and taking their turn when playing with other kids is something they may struggle with. Or an inability to resolve basic disagreements with other children could indicate problem-solving challenges.
5. Frequently Disorganised
A lack of organisation shows in kids when their room is messy, and they cannot clean it up.
Your child may see their messy bedroom and not understand where to begin. Being too much for them to deal with, they suffer from overwhelm. As a parent, you may have become upset believing they ignored your request to put their toys away.
You can help by breaking room organisation tasks into smaller steps. The old saying about elephants and single bites comes to mind here. Cleaning their room, a little at a time, with breaks and a system of rewards, can provide ample structure and incentives.
Build Up Crucial Executive Functioning Skills
As a parent, you may have observed that your child is disorganised, has trouble focusing, struggles with basic planning, or has little concern for time. While many children may exhibit some of these behaviours, more severe cases or when not seeing improvement as your child ages suggest executive functioning skill difficulties.
By adopting new parenting strategies, you can assist your child in functioning better. With a supportive and compassionate approach, they can adapt to and learn these crucial life skills.
Have you noticed your child struggling with any of the above executive functioning skills? Please find out more about how our academic coaching programme called X-Skills can help your child today!