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A Day in the Life of a Child with Executive Function Issues

Meet Andrew, a sixth-grader with executive function issues. This doesn’t mean he isn’t smart. It means his brain’s self-management system has trouble getting organised and getting things done.

Executive functions are an important set of mental skills. To see how trouble with these skills affects children in school and outside of it too, take a look at a typical day in Andrew’s life.

7 a.m.        

Andrew knows he’s forgetting something. Ah, that’s it—his math textbook. He runs back inside to get it, but he ends up leaving his lunchbox at home as he races to get in the car. He sprints past the checklist his mom made to help him remember what he needs for school. But it’s too late: Dad is already reversing the car out of the garage.

Which executive function skill challenges did he experience?

Organisation and using working memory

11 a.m.        

Andrew’s teacher asks, “Who has a good answer to the first question I gave you yesterday about last night’s reading assignment?” Andrew squirms, hoping he won’t be called on. He didn’t write the questions in his planner and has no idea how to answer them.

Which executive function skill challenges did he experience?

Organisation and attention

12 p.m.          

It’s the best part of the school day: break time! But Andrew hogs the conversation, talking way too loud and too much about his video games. He doesn’t notice how annoyed his friends are getting.

Which executive function skill challenges did he experience?

Keeping track of what you’re doing and self-control

3 p.m.            

At cricket practice, Andrew is so focused on hitting the ball that he doesn’t keep in mind which direction he’s supposed to hit it. He just swings the bat in any direction – right into his own teammate.

Which executive function skill challenges did he experience?

Shifting focus and thinking flexibly 

6 p.m.          

Andrew isn’t happy when his mom tells him to turn off the TV and set the dinner table. When he thinks he’s done, his little sister tattles that once again he forgot to give each person a cup. Frustrated with his sister and with missing his TV show, Andrew loses his cool and screams at her.

Which executive function skill challenges did he experience?

Managing frustration and keeping emotions in check 

8 p.m.               

After lots of prodding from his mom, Andrew sits down to do his homework. But he doesn’t know where to start. Instead of doing the book report or the math problems that are due tomorrow, he surfs the web to find a topic for his science report that’s due next week. Then he takes a break to play a video game.

Which executive function skill challenges did he experience?

Setting priorities and starting tasks

10 p.m.        

When Andrew finally starts the book report, his mind keeps jumping from one thought to another. He can’t figure out what to write and only gets one sentence down on paper before he gives up for the night. He thinks he can do more on the way to school tomorrow—even though he’s never gotten anything done while in the car.

Which executive function skill challenges did he experience?

Paying attention, staying on task, and organisation

Midnight

It’s way past his bedtime. Andrew is exhausted. He tries to go to sleep, but he can’t shut off his brain. He keeps worrying about disappointing the teacher with his book report and getting teased by his teammates for hitting his friend with the ball.

Which executive function skill challenges did he experience?

Anxiety and keeping emotions in check

Many children who learn and think differently have trouble with executive function. All children with ADHD struggle with it.

These difficulties don’t mean children aren’t smart. Brain differences make it hard for children like Andrew to pay attention, set goals, get started, and stay on task. This includes things like doing homework and daily routines.

These kinds of struggles are often misunderstood. People might think children are just being lazy or aren’t capable of doing more. But with the right support, children with executive functioning issues can thrive.

There are lots of ways to help. Support can help children like Andrew get organised and stay on top of assignments. It can also help them feel less stressed and more confident.

One effective tool that can be used to strengthen executive function is Biolink Attention Training; a neurocognitive learning system that improves cognitive skills associated with executive function, which reduces impulsivity, helps with task switching, aids in rational thoughts, supports the ability to plan and organise, and benefits self-regulation.

Biolink Attention Training can create new neural pathways to increase executive function to improve brain function and increase self-esteem. Our artificial intelligence, Sheer Genius, automatically sets mini goals for each individual.  This teaches you that being perfect is not the goal.  Simply striving for small steps of achievement each day is the key to success.

Lizaan Spangenberg
Biolink Attention Training Head Office