An Executive Functions/Skills Approach

ADHD is a disorder of self-regulation and executive function. – Dr. Russell Barkley

ADHD – Are you looking for some clarity and direction?

Executive functions are a set of mental processes that help to connect past experience with present action. People use them to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space. If you or someone you love struggles with executive functions, achieving goals (both long and short-term) are much more difficult to do.

The diagnostic criterial of “ADHD” doesn’t begin to describe the complexity of what an individual with ADHD actually struggles with.

Generally, deficits in executive function can be seen at any age. However, they become more apparent and pronounced as children move through school and are increasingly expected to work independently and adults are expected to produce at higher levels or manage others.

Executive functions include:

Response inhibition

Thinking and pausing long enough to consider how a response will impact a situation.

Working Memory

Holding in memory a series of steps when performing a task with more than one step.

Emotional Control

Managing emotions in appropriate ways to achieve goals.

Sustained Attention

Staying focused and maintaining attention over a period of time despite distractions.

Task Initiation

Getting started efficiently, in a timely fashion and not procrastinate unnecessarily.

Planning and Prioritization

Seeing and creating a series of steps to achieve an ultimately goal; making decisions about the order and importance of each step.


Creating and maintaining systems to track information, resources and projects.

Time Management

Estimating accurately how much time it will take to accomplish tasks, how to allocate time, meet deadlines, and have a sense of the passage of time.

Goal-Directed Persistence

Keeping goals in mind and staying on track with steps to achieve them.

Flexibility/Context Switching

Moving easily from one task or activity to another; ability to adjust and adapt to changes conditions.


Thinking and evaluating personal mental processes; to self-monitor and self-evaluate in a situation and adjust to stay on task and oriented to goals.

Working with ADHD from an executive functions perspective makes it possible to identify strengths and weaknesses, leverage strengths to offset the weaknesses, create a customized plan, and target specific areas.

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