Executive Skills Challenges in Kids with Autism
Your child has problems with their executive function,” is a common phrase heard by the parents of kids with autism spectrum disorders. Educators, psychologists, and occupational therapists seem to connect executive functioning skills to virtually every activity that kids do in school and at home. But what do they actually mean when they say “executive functions?”
There does seem to be a consensus that executive functions are brain-based cognitive skills. Current views describe executive functions focused in the prefrontal cortex of our brains, and part of a large neural network
Executive functions are the high-level skills that help humans get things done. They impact decision –making, self-control, and help with figuring out what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.
They reflect our capacities for managing our behaviour, emotion, and future thinking. Skills such as:
- Working memory
- Emotional control
- time management
- social awareness
- meta cognition
These are all considered to be executive functioning skills.
Specific executive functioning weaknesses often describe the struggles of neurodivergent children. For example, children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) most often display difficulties with executive functions such as attention, time management, inhibition, working memory, and organization.
“Executive functions are the high-level skills that help humans get things done . They impact decision-making, self-control, and help with figuring out what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. “
For children with autism, the most common executive functioning struggles are seen in the skills of flexibility, social thinking, Meta cognition, attention, and emotional control. However, each child affected by autism has different executive strengths and weaknesses. Even neurotypical adults and kids can easily identify some of these skills that they would like to improve.
ldentifying the most common executive functioning struggles in children with autism can lead directly to improvements in school and social and emotional functioning . lt is critical that parents assess their children affected by autism to determine which skills to target.