What Does It Mean To Have Weak Executive Functioning Skills?


Many middle school children have difficulty with executive functioning skills. What does this really mean? For many of the students that we work with at the K& M Center this means that they are missing assignments and they are not adequately prepared for tests. Students who have done well in elementary school, but now struggle with the increased demands of middle school, often have weak executive functioning skills.

So what do you do to help these students? The first step in building executive functioning skills is becoming aware of the areas that need to be developed. To help build awareness in our students we have them take our executive functioning quiz. We have posted this quiz on the K & M Center website and you are welcome to take the quiz, which is free. The results of the quiz help our students get an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Below is a sample of a student’s results.

  Take the EF Quiz

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Looking at these results, we can learn about how the student approaches his work. The important thing to know about this quiz is it is not a definitive profile of the student, rather it is a comparison of his strengths and weaknesses. We are only looking at how this student has rated himself. It is interesting to have the parents and teachers take the quiz as well, and get their perspective on the student. Then, you can have a conversation with the student comparing how everyone sees his executive functioning skills.

The student above rates himself with strong emotional control and a good ability to shift between tasks. The student sees himself as average in working memory, inhibiting behavior, and monitoring his workload. This student has rated his areas of weakness as organizing material and initiating work. Once a student has taken the quiz, the perception of how he sees his strengths and weaknesses can be compared to how he is studying and achieving in school. This conversation between how the student perceives his study skills and how he is doing in his classes can lead to creating goals to help increase his performance in school. I have attached a page from our executive functioning workbook so that you can see a sample of what it might look like to set goals with a student.

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Executive functioning is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of skills. By taking the EF quiz and discussing the results, students can focus in on the areas they want to develop. Executive functioning skills allow a student to be able to look at an assignment, read the directions, gather the materials that are needed, estimate how much time it will take, do the assignment, finish it and turn it in. It sounds so simple for those that have strong executive functioning skills, yet it is extremely difficult for any student who is struggling in this area. Remediating an executive functioning issue requires pinpointing the area of difficulty and helping the student learn the steps to follow. Executive functioning skills are not needed just for school, they are skills we all use every day. Taking the time to help a child build executive functioning skills is definitely worth the effort.

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