Teens & Executive Functioning

Updated: Sep 6, 2019

by: Dr. Jeff Brockman, LPC-A

What do ADHD, Autism, Asperger’s, and Many Teens Have in Common?

Is your adolescent disorganized and forgetful of tasks? What about having a hard time learning to stop himself (impulse control)? Does she seem to repeat the same mistake over and over again? Well, don’t worry, it only lasts until they are 25 years old! Unless…we intervene...

What these varied groups of people may have in common is a weak executive function system. They need learn how to meet and keep friends. What is executive function? Executive function (EF) is a set of skills using the front part of our brain, known as the prefrontal cortex. According to Peg Dawson and Richard Guare (2010), EF is a neuropsychological concept that refers to the high-level cognitive processes involved in tasks of planning and directing activities. Impulse control, getting started with a task, and staying on task are a few examples of executive function skills. Other executive function skills that can be taught by a behavioral therapist include getting ready in the morning, completing long-term projects, skills of organizing, and learning to control emotions.

One of my core beliefs when I was teaching was that anyone can learn whatever they want to learn. Where there is a will, there is a way. While there may be a few exceptions in cases of significant learning disabilities, the good news is that these executive function skills can be

taught and learned! Even flexibility can be learned (please tell my dad that I learned it).

Many specialty schools include executive function skills in their curriculum beginning in kindergarten. Some parents have said to me that their child can have the X Box back when all their grades are As and Bs. As a mental health therapist, I know that such a potential reward may be too far into the future to be effective. A frustrated child needs to have the opportunity get a reward as soon as possible after successfully completing a small task. Yes, this is WORK and requires effort, but in the long run, rewards or praise will be able to be given less frequently. We always want to provide the least amount of support possible, which is a very difficult point to find.

If you feel your child might need help in any of these areas, including ADHD therapy, please contact me at 704-457-1789 to schedule a free, fifteen-minute consultation, or click here to

book an appointment online.