Executive functioning is the processing that needs to happen in our brains so that we can manage daily life. It helps us with important things we do every day. It's all about problem-solving, making choices, and keeping ourselves regulated. Executive functioning is essential for helping us at school or at work. Autistic people and those with ADHD often face challenges with executive functioning, making tasks that most people find very easy, a lot harder.
What does executive functioning help us with?
Executive functioning helps us with so many things, including:
Memory Skills: Being able to temporarily remember and use information in your mind for problem-solving and decision-making.
Self-Control: Having the power to control impulses, manage emotions, and shift attention when necessary, which helps resist distractions and make thoughtful choices.
Task Switching: Being good at moving between different tasks or activities smoothly, adjusting to changing priorities and demands.
Planning and Organising: Having the ability to set goals, make a plan to reach those goals, and organise the steps needed to carry out the plan.
Getting Started: Being able to begin tasks or activities without delaying or avoiding them.
Adaptability: Having the ability to adjust to new situations and different perspectives, allowing for effective problem-solving and responding to new information.
Self-Monitoring: The skill of checking how you're doing toward a goal, realising when changes are needed, and controlling your behaviour and emotions in the correct way for whatever situation you are in.
How can you improve executive functioning skills?
There are things you can do to help your own executive functioning, or support others who are struggling.
Take Small Steps: Break big tasks into smaller parts to make them easier.
Use Pictures and Timetables: Pictures and calendars can help you see and understand tasks and schedules better.
Follow a Routine: Doing things in the same order every day can make it simpler. Routine means you use less of your limited executive functioning power and leave it free for other tasks throughout the day.
Manage Time Well: Use alarms or timers to help you keep track of time. Plan how long each task will take.
Stay Organised: Use planners, checklists, or apps to remember things and stay organised.
Challenge Your Memory: Try puzzles, games, or mental exercises to improve your memory.
Stay Active: Exercise regularly to help your brain work better.
Take Care of Yourself: Get enough sleep, eat well, and drink water to keep your body and brain healthy.
Relax and Focus: Practice deep breathing or mindfulness to manage stress and stay focused.
Get Help if Needed: Talk to professionals like doctors or teachers who can give you extra support and advice. Some people may need medication, especially if they’re diagnosed with ADHD.
Remember, everyone is different, so find what works best for you or your child. Be patient, and don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it.
For more information and ideas on understanding and supporting an autistic family member, check out our books here.