The Truth About Executive Dysfunction


The truth about executive dysfunction


Having trouble being on time, initiating tasks, staying motivated, or monitoring your progress in attaining defined goals? You’re not alone. Many students and test takers get labeled “careless” or “lazy” for these behaviors, but those labels are often from accurate and damaging.


These types of processing challenges are often caused by a disorder to the internal processes of our executive functioning. When those processes are not working in an orderly way, it is known as executive function disorder, or executive dysfunction. It's not a diagnosis that you'll find in the DSM-V, a manual which clinicians use a diagnostic tool. But it is a symptom of disorders that do appear in the manual, including ADHD.


The executive functions are a set of processes that all have to do with managing one’s self and one’s resources to complete a goal. Executive functions are controlled by the frontal lobe of the brain and they deal with mental skills that act as a command center.


Dealing with executive functioning issues can intensify the challenges faced in everyday life, especially in stress-inducing situations like taking an exam. Some cases of executive dysfunction may be due to brain injury, but others are present in people with disabilities related to learning, ADHD, or depression. In fact, ADHD is actually an impairment of the executive functions.


According to Kati Morton, a licensed family therapist, some behavioral tasks that can help with executive dysfunction are listed below:


  • Utilizing time organizers, planners, lists, and alarms

  • Asking for written instructions

  • Making a schedule that can be referenced throughout the day to help stay on track

  • Breaking down large tasks into smaller ones

  • Keeping work areas separate from leisure areas

  • Setting reminders about upcoming transitions and changes in established routines


Struggling with executive dysfunction is not a sign of laziness, nor is it an underlying character flaw. The symptoms are not always easily recognizable, but at Ginsburg Advanced Tutoring our certified teachers are trained to spot these kinds of learning issues. Give us a call or schedule a free consult with us if you think executive functioning issues are impacting your test day performance.