How Can ABA Help With Executive Functioning Skills Series: What is Executive Functioning?

This past year has certainly been eye opening for parents as they educate their children from home.  Many parents have watched their kids struggle to complete the detailed and voluminous amount of work that their schools have assigned to them.  To add to this, many schools are using a variety of platforms, websites, etc. to accomplish this work, which is enough to make even an adult's head spin.  This amount of work and multi-step planning has helped to highlight some issues that parents can only infer have long existed in their child's ability to function in the school environment.  

A possible source of these issues might be rooted in a deficit in "Executive Functioning (EF)" skills.  

In the first of the series on how ABA can help with EF, it will be helpful to describe exactly which skills are encapsulated under this concept.  In a nutshell, EF skills are those brain-based skills that are required for humans to execute, or perform a task.  As the research has increased on this fairly new topic (research began in the mid 80's), this large concept has been divided into smaller skills sets. 

They are as follows:  

1. Response inhibition: The ability to think before you act 

2. Working Memory: The ability to hold information in your mind while performing a complex task 

3. Emotional Control: The ability to manage emotions

4. Sustained attention: The ability to pay attention despite distractibility, fatigue or boredom

5. Task initiation: The ability to begin a large task or project

6. Planning/prioritization: The ability to develop a plan to reach a goal or complete a project

7. Organization: The ability to maintain or create systems to keep track of information

8. Time management: The capacity to estimate time, allocate it, and to stay on track

9. Goal directed persistence: The capacity to have a goal and to follow through to accomplish it. 

10. Flexibility: The ability to revise plans in the face of obstacles, setbacks or mistakes. 

11. Metacognition: The ability to stand back and take a bird's eye view of yourself, or to self monitor/self evaluate

I am sure that many of these skills stick out at you as you read through the list; some you may even recognize as an issue in your own day to day life!  It's also easy to see how a student with highly developed EF skills will do much better in the school environment, especially in the current virtual school setting.  

In the next part of the series, we will discuss how you can identify which of these areas is the most challenging for your child, using an ABA-based approach.  

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