Want to understand Executive function? Executive function (EF) is a term used to describe a set of cognitive skills that are crucial for managing and regulating various aspects of our lives. These skills enable us to plan, organize, initiate tasks, shift between activities, regulate our emotions, and exhibit self-control. While executive function skills develop over time for most individuals, they can pose unique challenges for those who are autistic or neurodivergent. However, with support, tools, and coaching, these challenges can be addressed, and many autistic people can learn helpful approaches to support their executive function abilities.
Understanding Executive Function
Think of executive function as the CEO of the brain. It’s responsible for making decisions, managing time, setting goals, and executing plans. This complex cognitive process involves several components:
Inhibition: Controlling impulsive behaviors, resisting distractions, and staying focused on a task.
Working Memory: Storing and using information, which is essential for tasks like following multi-step directions.
Cognitive Flexibility: Switching between tasks, adapting to changes, and thinking creatively.
Planning and Organization: Creating strategies, setting goals, and breaking them down into manageable steps.
Time Management: Allocating time effectively and understanding the passage of time.
Emotional Regulation: Recognizing and managing emotions to maintain appropriate responses.
Frequently, autistic people’s EF skills may trail behind those of peers by several years, and unlike many, autistic people may not naturally acquire these skills over time; instead, they often develop compensatory coping strategies. It’s crucial to adjust your expectations regarding a child’s developmental progress accordingly, considering that EF can significantly influence their task performance in daily life.
Tools for improving executive functioning: Building support systems
Executive functioning skills are essential for planning, organizing, and regulating various aspects of our lives. While many autistic people struggle with them, we can develop effective approaches to enhance these abilities with appropriate support. Here are some options suggested by autistic staff on our team:
Adapting these strategies and more to your specific needs is essential to their success.
Frequently, autistic people’s EF skills may trail behind those of peers by several years, and unlike many, autistic people may not naturally acquire these skills over time; instead, they often develop compensatory coping strategies.
Resources for Enhanced Support
Consider integrating various apps, books, and other tools into daily life:
Visual aids: Tiimo and Todoist aid in organizing tasks and managing time.
Many apps fees or subscriptions may be covered under autism funding if it’s included in a Justification for Equipment from an Occupational Therapist and outlines how the app supports a child’s needs.
If you’re an AFU-approved or adult service provider offering executive functioning support or coaching, email us at [email protected] to be added to our list.
Seeking support for executive function skills is a proactive step towards personal growth and empowerment. It’s a recognition of individual strengths and a commitment to navigating the world in a way that aligns with one’s unique neurodiversity. Be kind to yourself and your loved ones while you make progress on this personal journey.
Following my child’s autism diagnosis, I became a passionate advocate for the autism community and joined AutismBC in 2021. My commitment extends to my home in Northern BC, where I am determined to raise awareness and provide support. In 2017, my family and I returned to the North after a decade away, drawn back by our love for the wilderness and its people. Having lived in various parts of BC, I observed distinct approaches to service distribution in each community. I am dedicated to bridging this gap in the North, connecting communities with resources, information, and services.
Outside of my community involvement, I’m all about real estate, especially those charming craftsman homes. Over our BC years, my family and I have thrown ourselves into revamping and reviving old houses, making them into homes we adore.
Government Agencies MCFD: Ministry of Children & Family Development CYSN: Children & Youth with Support Needs (branch of MCFD) AIS: Autism Information Services CLBC: Community Living BC MoH: Ministry […]
Our recent survey of autistic adults found that 74 per cent of participants have difficulty with daily cleaning. Sixty-six per cent found running errands challenging, and 60 per cent struggled with cooking.