5 common myths about executive function challenges

By Amanda Morin

5 common myths about executive functioning issues, executive function, boy sitting at a desk working

If your child has trouble with executive function, you know how real these challenges are — and how big an impact they can have. Whether you’re new to the topic or not, you might have trouble separating fact from fiction. Here are five common myths about , 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 by adults in general. 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 . But not all kids who struggle with executive skills have ADHD. While researchers are still exploring the connection between the two conditions, they do know 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, however. As kids get older, these skills continue to develop. Getting help at school and using at-home strategies to build on strengths 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 suggestions for strategies in the classroom. You may also want to consider requesting an evaluation to get a better sense of your child’s specific learning challenges.

A child who has a 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. At home you can experiment with different tools to build organization skills like graphic organizers, checklists, and games. There are 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.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Bob Cunningham, EdM serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.