Executive functions are an integral part of early childhood development. Executive functioning provides the skills one needs to excel in school and daily life.
Examples of executive functions one should learn in childhood include:
- Adaptable thinking
- Planning and scheduling
- Working memory
- Time management
Lacking one or more of these skills is referred to as executive dysfunction.
Executive dysfunction is a symptom that happens with other conditions that impact your brain’s ability to control emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. It is common with conditions like ADHD and Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and can also occur due to brain damage and degenerative brain diseases.
Executive function skills help children learn independence, allowing them to function in school and at home. For some children, these skills are more naturally developed. For other children, they need more assistance with building their executive functioning skills.
Executive functioning skills make it possible for a child to live, work, and learn at an age-appropriate level. These are skills that are essential for building age-appropriate competence and independence.
Children on the autism spectrum and with other sensory processing disorders need assistance developing these skills. ABA therapy can help children develop targeted and specific executive function skills.
ABA therapy can be used to address executive dysfunction in children with a variety of conditions, including ADHD and ASD. With ABA therapy, individual treatment plans are created that help a child learn and improve life skills. These include the life skills that fall under executive functioning.
ABA therapy focuses on the functions of certain behaviors. An ABA therapist can help a child overcome executive dysfunction by working with the child to build positive executive function skills.
With ABA therapy, the therapist will focus on a smaller sub skill that is connected to one of the seven overarching executive functions listed above.
For example, a child who struggles with planning and scheduling may not finish assignments because they don’t write the assignments down in their planner.
Instead of tackling the entire overarching skill of planning and scheduling, the therapist would focus on the specific behavior, not writing down assignments in the planner.
The therapist would then work to understand why this is happening:
- Is the child overwhelmed with the teacher’s verbal instructions?
- Does the child not know where homework assignments are posted?
- Does the child feel too anxious in class to write down the assignments?
Once the therapist understands why the child is struggling with this skill, they can then use ABA therapy techniques, such as positive reinforcement, to help the child work towards the goal of writing down their assignments.
This is one way to help the child grow the executive function of planning and scheduling. It is about taking things one step at a time and making learning these large skills and behaviors easier for the child to manage.
At Award Behavioral Health, our ABA programs are designed and monitored by our team of qualified and trained behavior analysts.
If you think you need help managing your child’s executive dysfunction, please contact Award Behavioral Health for a consultation.
For appointments, call us at (800) 249-9569 or contact us online.