What is ‘executive functioning’ (EF) and what would a problem with this look like?

Executive function is often referred to by itself, but it is actually a group of skills performed mainly by the pre-frontal cortex of the brain that are responsible for behaviour that has a purpose or is directed towards a particular goal.

A child with Executive Function difficulties may have problems with inhibition (avoiding impulsive responding, waiting their turn, and holding back from risky or inappropriate behaviour), getting started with tasks, organising a large task into smaller parts, organising their belongings, planning their approach to a complex task, maintaining emotional control under upsetting circumstances, showing flexibility when there are multiple ways of responding, solving complex problems, making decisions by weighing up options, monitoring how well a task is going, and transitioning between activities.

These skills are often impaired in ADHD, but difficulties with Executive Functioning are not exclusive to ADHD and a child may struggle with some but not all components of Executive Functioning.