5 common myths about executive function challenges

By Amanda Morin

Expert reviewed by Bob Cunningham, EdM

Updated June 18, 2022

If your child has trouble with , you know how real these challenges are — and how big an impact they can have. Whether you’re new to the topic or not, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. Here are five common myths about executive function, put to rest.

Myth #1: Executive function challenges aren’t real.

Fact: Some people might raise an eyebrow at a term like , and that’s not surprising. It sounds like something you might read in a business magazine.

But executive function skills like organization and time management aren’t just used by CEOs or other adults. Kids use them every day, too.

Experts don’t yet know exactly what causes executive function challenges. But they do know that trouble with these skills is related to differences in how the brain develops. It’s important to remember, too, that challenges with executive function aren’t signs of laziness or lack of ambition.

Myth #2: Executive function challenges are the same thing as ADHD.

Fact: It’s true that executive function is a challenge for kids with ADHD. But not all kids who have a hard time with executive skills have ADHD. In fact, researchers are still exploring the link between the two conditions. One thing they do know is that kids who have the inattentive type of ADHD are more likely to have trouble with executive function than kids who are hyperactive or impulsive.

Myth #3: Kids outgrow executive function challenges.

Fact: Executive function challenges are brain-based and aren’t something kids outgrow. But executive skills can improve. As kids get older, these skills continue to develop. That’s especially true for kids who get help at school and use at-home strategies. This support can help your child’s brain learn ways to work around weaknesses with organization, planning, and time management.

Myth #4: Schools won’t give accommodations for executive function challenges.

Fact: There is no specific diagnosis for executive function challenges. But that doesn’t mean your child’s school can’t provide accommodations to help your child. The teacher may have some ideas for strategies in the classroom. Also, consider requesting an evaluation to get a better sense of your child’s specific learning challenges.

A child who has a specific learning disability and/or ADHD may be eligible for an (IEP) or a that puts formal in place. These may include extra time to complete tests or a positive behavior plan to help your child improve impulse control in class.

Myth #5: There’s nothing you can do about executive function challenges.

Fact: There are a number of ways to help improve your child’s executive function skills. Your child’s school can use specific teaching strategies and programs. And at home, you can experiment with different tools to build organization skills like graphic organizers, checklists, and games.

There are also ways you can help your child boost memory skills and improve flexible thinking. Learning as much as you can about executive function skills can help you understand your child and figure out the best strategies to help.

About the author

About the author

Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days. 

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Bob Cunningham, EdM has been part of the Understood team since its founding. He has also been the chief administrator for several independent schools and a school leader in both general and special education.