McCloskey, Perkins, and Van Divner describe executive functions (EF) as “a set of directive capacities in the brain that are responsible for a person’s ability to engage in purposeful, organized, strategic, self directed, and goal directed processing of perceptions, emotions, thoughts, and actions” (2009, p.15). They identify 23 self regulation functions including; organization, modulation, focus, flexibility, planning, inhibition, time, and monitoring. When someone has difficulty with one or more of these functions the impact is often most evident in school (e.g., unable to complete class work and homework in a timely fashion). However, problems in executive functioning can also impact the way in which one relates to and understands the world around him. For example, difficulty with the “flexibility” function might lead one to be rigid in his feelings toward himself or others. Problems with the “time” and “planning” functions can lead to chronic difficulty keeping appointments or following a schedule. Individuals with “organization” difficulties may struggle to sort out the social and emotional menagerie called adolescence, leading to deeper issues such as depression, anxiety, or social isolation.
Pathways’ executive functioning program of intervention begins with developing an awareness of the individual’s specific profile of EF strengths and weaknesses. This is generally accomplished through a comprehensive evaluation followed by a series of individual sessions. As the individual becomes aware of their EF profile the intervention turns to an exploration of how executive functioning impacts school performance, understanding of self, emotional functioning, and social interaction. Focused training in strategies to address specific areas of dysfunction follows in the intervention. Once the individual is aware of corrective strategies, follow up coaching is available to assist in the implementation of those strategies in a real world context. Coaching may be done in the Pathways office, via telephone, email, texting, or through a trained EF coach at school.
McCloskey, G., Perkins, L., Van Divner, B.; (2009). Assessment and Intervention for Executive Function Difficulties. Routledge, New York.