Executive functioning refers to complex thinking skills that are developing throughout childhood such as planning and organisation, monitoring, initiation, flexible thinking, and complex attention (e.g., working memory, multitasking, inhibitory control). These skills help us to regulate our behaviour and emotions, problem solve in social situations, and efficiently process, learn and recall information.
Children with executive difficulties may have more trouble than their peers starting complex tasks, generating ideas, planning and organising schoolwork, keeping track of multi-step activities, efficiently learning new skills or accessing knowledge from their long-term memory. They may also find it more challenging to respond flexibly, regulate their emotions, control their impulses or engage in effortful tasks.
Evaluating a child’s executive profile is an important component of the neuropsychological assessment and will often include a range of assessment tasks, behavioural observations and parent/teacher questionnaires. Understanding a child’s strengths and weaknesses in this domain can offer useful information about what may be contributing to the challenges they are experiencing with their thinking, academic skills or daily behaviour and will help to inform appropriate strategies to support their ongoing learning and day-to-day functioning.