Executive functioning issues

I Just Found Out My Child Has Executive Functioning Issues. Now What?

By The Understood Team

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If you just learned your child has executive functioning issues, you might wonder what to do next. How can you help her get better at planning and organization? How can she improve at starting and completing tasks? Follow these steps to help your child with executive functioning issues at home and at school.


Learn all you can about executive functioning issues.

Executive functioning skills help the brain get things done in an organized and efficient way—all the way from the planning stages of the job to the final deadline. Learn about different executive functions and how kids use them to learn. And get a sense of what it’s like to have executive functioning issues: Explore what a day in the life of a child with these issues might look like, and try a simulation that allows you to experience organization issues.

It’s also important to discover how your child’s executive functioning issues specifically affect her. Does she have trouble starting tasks? How do executive functioning issues shape her social life, math skills or reading skills? What effect do they have on homework—or even the state of her backpack? See how executive functioning challenges can affect your child at different ages.


Understand the connection between executive functioning issues and ADHD.

Executive functioning issues often appear in kids with other learning and attention issues, especially ADHD. Read about the link between executive functioning issues and ADHD. Then find out what to do if you’re concerned your child might have ADHD or other learning or attention issues.


Investigate treatments and therapies for executive functioning issues.

Talk to your child’s doctor about treatment options, which might include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). If your child has ADHD, you can explore ADHD treatment options. You may also have heard about “train the brain” games to help kids build executive functioning skills. Find out what our experts say about whether these games are helpful.


Teach your child to self-advocate.

It’s important for your child to develop the ability to speak up for exactly what she needs from teachers to help with her executive functioning issues. Help your child recognize her strengths and challenges. And explore self-advocacy sentence starters for kids with various learning and attention issues.


Discuss school supports and services.

Schedule a meeting with the school and bring copies of any reports you may have from doctors or specialists. Using recommendations from private evaluations can help with the IEP or 504 plan process. The school may have done its own evaluation, too. (If not, find out how to request a free one.) Talk about types of accommodations or specialized instruction that might help.

Keep in mind that executive functioning issues on their own typically aren’t enough to make a child eligible for an IEP or a 504 plan. But your child may have another learning or attention issue that does qualify. If your child isn’t found eligible, learn about informal supports that could help in the classroom. You can also explore steps to take if your child is denied services.


Understand the possible emotional impact.

Having learning and attention issues can affect your child’s emotions. If your child has attention issues, learn about the link between ADHD and emotions. Try to become familiar with the signs of anxiety and depression, and don’t wait to contact your child’s doctor if you have concerns.


Learn ways to help with executive functioning issues at home.

From color-coding to playing board games, there are strategies and tools you can try at home to help your child get better with organization and time management. See how you can help your child at different ages. Explore age-specific tips on how to help your child stay focused and organized. Search for apps to help kids with organization at various ages. And watch a video to learn about apps for teens with organization issues.


Find support.

Contact your local Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) to learn about services and support near you. And join other parents from across the country in our online community. They can offer tried-and-true advice to help you navigate your journey.


Stay in touch with the school.

It’s important to keep in touch with your child’s teachers. This will help you keep track of whether your child’s supports and services are working. In some cases, you may have to explain how executive functioning issues impact your child or affect her school performance. The teacher may also have tips on how to help your child get organized and break down assignments into manageable chunks.

About the Author

Understood Team Graphic

The Understood Team is composed of writers, editors and community moderators, many of whom have children with learning and attention issues.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Mark Griffin

Mark Griffin, Ph.D., was the founding headmaster of Eagle Hill School, a school for children with specific learning disabilities.

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