Executive function encompasses all the cognitive skills that help us focus, multitask, follow instructions, and remember things. These functions keep us motivated to work toward and achieve goals and prepare for the future. When using executive functions, we can:

  • Analyze a task
  • Make a plan to achieve it
  • Create a list of steps
  • Establish a timeline to finish the task
  • Adjust the timeline and/or steps as needed
  • Achieve the task within a reasonable time

Unfortunately, many children experience what is called executive function disorder in which they have difficulty staying organized and regulating their goal-accomplishing behaviors. Here, we will discuss what this disorder looks like and how you can help your child find ways to overcome it and improve their executive function skills.

What Is Executive Function Disorder?

To begin, Executive Function Disorder is all of the behavioral, mental, and emotional struggles resulting from depression, ADHD, autism, schizophrenia, and/or traumatic brain injury. Those affected by it find it difficult to solve problems, plan, keep their materials organized, regulate their emotions, stick to tasks, set schedules, and manage their time. They often find themselves losing things and keeping a tidy bedroom.

Attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) and executive function disorder are closely related, as most children with ADHD tend to have more severe problems with executive functions than those without. Executive functioning deficits can also be a symptom of ADHD.

Signs of Executive Function Disorder

If you suspect that your child has a problem with executive function, here are some symptoms that are easy to spot:

  1. Starting and not completing tasks
  2. Difficulty processing information
  3. Inability to piece actions together to achieve goals
  4. Time blindness and time management problems
  5. Trouble managing impulses and regulating emotions
  6. Inflexibility with change
  7. Difficulty remembering what they just heard or read
  8. Inability to prioritize activities
  9. Overly emotional
  10. Fixation 
  11. Struggles keeping track of things and staying organized at home or school
  12. Disordered thoughts
  13. Difficulty following directions

Don’t be dismayed if you notice these in your son or daughter. There are plenty of things that can be done to help him or her overcome executive function disorder. 

Improving Executive Function

To determine the first step in helping a child, exhibiting these symptoms, have him or her evaluated. The evaluation can rule out conditions associated with the same symptoms. In addition, the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function survey is the most widely used assessment for Executive Function problems. It is an 86-question written survey that identifies the child’s main areas of difficulty to guide his or her treatment.

From here, you can work with a qualified mental health professional to pinpoint which treatment will be most effective. They may recommend anything from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to medication. This process will drive progress and promote accountability and motivation.

Contact Choose Mental Health for a Free Assessment

Choose Mental Health is eager to help your family find the relief you’ve been desperately seeking. We are eliminating the stigma around mental health challenges and connecting families like yours every day with an entire network of providers who can help your child make a breakthrough.  As a result, we offer a free assessment that can help get on the track to treatment, so don’t delay, get started on recovery! 

Refer to our article library or help videos for additional resources on similar topics.




Choose Mental Health is changing nationally the approach to mental health for children. As advocates for our nation’s youth, we must do better. Our children need a stigma-free space to explore, communicate and get answers, real answers on how to solve mental health problems.

Kids and youth deserve our best mental health solutions, help and support. They deserve to not be afraid of their thoughts. They deserve the best we can give them. By supporting Choose Mental Health you are standing up for 20 million children and youth with chronic or debilitating mental health needs suffering right now.

Choose Mental Health needs your best, to give help to children who need our best.

Join us and make mental health a positive topic.

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