5 Common Myths About Executive Functioning Issues

By Amanda Morin
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If your child has executive functioning issues, you know how real these issues 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 executive function, put to rest.

Myth #1: Executive functioning issues aren’t real.

Fact: Some people might raise an eyebrow at a term like “executive functioning issues,” and that’s not surprising. It sounds like something you might read in a business magazine! But executive functioning skills like organization and time management aren’t just used by CEOs.

Experts don’t yet know exactly what causes executive functioning issues. Many studies have found that trouble with these skills is related to differences in how the brain is structured and the levels of chemicals in the brain that help with focus and attention. It’s important to remember, too, that issues with executive functioning aren’t signs of laziness or lack of ambition.

Myth #2: Executive functioning issues are the same thing as ADHD.

Fact: It’s true that executive functioning can be a challenge for many kids who have ADHD. But not all kids who have executive functioning issues have ADHD, and vice versa. 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 functioning than kids who are hyperactive or impulsive.

Myth #3: Kids outgrow executive functioning issues.

Fact: Because executive functioning issues are brain-based, it’s not something children outgrow. That doesn’t mean a child with executive functioning issues can’t improve his executive skills, 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 functioning issues.

Fact: There is no specific diagnosis for executive functioning issues, 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.

If your child has a specific learning disability and/or ADHD, he may be eligible for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan that puts formal accommodations 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 functioning issues.

Fact: There are a number of ways to help improve your child’s executive functioning 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 functioning skills can help you understand your child and figure out the best strategies to help him.

About the Author

About the Author

Amanda Morin 

worked as a classroom teacher and as an early intervention specialist for 10 years. She is the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education. Two of her children have learning differences.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Bob Cunningham, EdM 

serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.

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