Executive Functioning skills are the crucial skills that both children and adults need to be functional, productive and successful  in school, work and life.  They are skills of memory, organization and goals.  People with ADHD lack good executive functioning skills.  Although everyone agrees on this, definitions of Executive Function skills abound.

The following are taken from two different sources: TE Brown (2001) Manual for Attention Deficit Disorder Scales for Children and Adolescents and Peg Dawson and Richard Guare (2010) Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents: A Practical Guide to Assessment and Intervention 2nd edition and demonstrate, while basically agreeing on content, two different approaches to the definition of Executive Functions.

Dawson and Guare model:

Planning– The ability to create a roadmap to reach a goal or to complete a task.  It also involves being able to make decisions about what’s important to focus on and what’s not important.

Organization– The ability to design and maintain systems for keeping track of information or materials.

Time Management– The capacity to estimate how much time one has, how to allocate it, and how to stay within time limits and deadlines.  It also involves a sense that time is important.

Working memory– The ability to hold information in the mind while performing complex tasks.  It incorporates the ability to draw on past learning or experience to apply to the situation at hand or to project into the future.

Metacognition– The ability to stand back and take a bird’s-eye view of oneself in a situation.  It is an ability to observe how you problem solve.  It also includes self-monitoring and self-evaluative skills (e.g., ask yourself, “How am I doing?” or “How did I do?”)

Response inhibition– The capacity to think before you act.  This ability to resist the urge to say or do something allows us the time to evaluate a situation and how our behavior might impact it.

Emotional control (also called self-regulation of affect)- The ability to manage emotions in order to achieve goals, complete tasks, or control and direct behavior.

Sustained attention– The capacity to attend to a situation or task in spite of distractibility, fatigue, or boredom.

Task initiation– The ability to begin a task without undue procrastination, in a timely fashion.

Flexibility– The ability to revise plans in the face of obstacles, setbacks, new information, or mistakes.  It involves adaptability to changing conditions.

Goal directed persistence– The capacity or drive to follow through to the completion of a goal and not be put off by other demands or competing interests.

Brown model:

1. Activation: Organizing, prioritizing and activating to work

2. Focus: Focusing, sustaining and shifting attention to tasks

3. Effort: Regulating alertness, sustaining effort, and processing speed

4. Emotion: Managing frustration and modulating emotions

5. Memory: Utilizing working memory and accessing recall

6: Action: Monitoring and self-regulating action

Though very similar, together they offer greater insight into understanding Executive Functioning skills.  Together they offer insight from the vantage points of psychology, education and science.