What Are Executive Function Skills?

Executive function skills begin to develop in childhood, throughout adolescence, and into early adult years.  They have often been referred to as the boss or CEO of the brain.  Unrelated to intelligence or academic proficiency, these skills are what enable a student to self-manage their work assignments with consistency and independence.  When these skills are underdeveloped, students experience an increasing gap between their academic potential and their actual grades, often causing unwanted tension with parents, teachers, and peers.


Executive function skills are often the missing link for very bright kids who begin to crumble in school.  Weaknesses in this area become evident in late-elementary or middle school years when homework demands are heavier and require more planning, organization and time-management skills.  Often, bright students learn to get by, despite their weaknesses, until the demands on these constellation of skills becomes overwhelming.  As stated by Dr. Dave Pomeroy, executive function skills involve the part in the brain where decisions are made, attention is harnessed, motivation is generated, and self-regulation is employed.  


The Coaching Model

For those struggling with inadequate executive function skills, coaching is the most effective means of support.  We know parents often feel caught in an impossible tension of over-functioning for their floundering teen.  Feelings of frustration, worry, and mistrust can quickly begin to dominate family dynamics.  Enlisting the help of an executive function coach can bring about the change that many parents feel helpless to create.  Research shows that an intentional coaching relationship that focuses primarily on supporting teens' emerging autonomy can significantly help to promote individual self-efficacy and confidence about future success.  Our executive function coaches work with students to develop ownership of their struggles, and provide students with support as they develop skills they will use for the rest of their lives.


For students struggling in this area, it is simply not enough to “teach” study skills.  We work hard to engage students with their goals, dreams, and sense of self, while developing the “nitty-gritty” of what it takes to move forward with independence.  While many students certainly begin working with a coach because of their parents prodding, we work hard to develop the buy-in necessary for students to identify the positive emotional outcomes they can have for themselves by implementing new strategies that will help develop these critical skills.  Applying important ideas and strategies directly to their own life allows each student to feel what it means to find success in school, their social life, and ultimately their future.


Tools Needed to Take Charge

Teens need a reliable toolkit to navigate the ever-increasing demands they face both in and outside of the classroom.  Our programs work to develop the following skills:

  • task-initiation
  • prioritization
  • time-management
  • goal-directed persistence
  • metacognition
  • self-awareness
  • study skills
  • test-taking
  • college prep
  • self-regulation
  • attention
  • working memory
  • active listening
  • emotional control
  • flexible thinking
  • organization
  • sustained attention
  • problem-solving

Don't settle for your teen falling short in school due to disorganization, poor follow-through, or inconsistent performance.  Let our learning specialists step in to work for lasting change.  Your teen can learn to make healthy life choices for their best future.


The Executive Function Programs We Use

Our Executive Function Program includes an extensive curriculum that directs students to reflect, self-evaluate, and develop their inner visualization and self-talk.  Our coaches supplement this curriculum with a constantly expanding resource of the best tools, apps, and strategies available to build executive functions skills.  We work alongside students and parents to develop personalized goals based on individual student challenges and priorities, while also encouraging self-understanding and self-advocacy along the way.

Attention Process Training (APT) is a comprehensive attention and metacognition training program aimed at improving underlying sustained, selective, and divided attention skills while also strengthening working memory.

Attention Focus Training (AFT) helps to build internal attention awareness and control.  The program work to help people of all ages develop an awareness of their particular kind of attention challenge and learn strategies for controlling it.  The goal of attention focus training is for students to develop the ability to independently monitor and regulate their own attention.

Brainology® is a nationally and internationally renowned program, based on decades of research by Dr. Carol Dweck, Ph.D.  It is designed to help younger students develop a growth mindset to reach a higher level of academic achievement, and provides a great introduction to executive function skills.  Brainology teaches students about the brain in order to develop a growth mindset and promote a sense of self-efficacy and motivation to learn.  Learn more on their website.

Executive function skills rely on other underlying skills on the Learning Skills Continuum, and directly impact students' ability to learn and demonstrate academic skills.

Cognitive processing skills like memory and language are the tools students have at their disposal to handle and interact with the information they face every day.

Core learning skills involve the mental flexibility and adaptability needed for ease in learning, social relationships, and general functions.