Executive function is in charge of making sure things get done from the planning stages of the job to the final deadline. (A. Morin) “EF involves self-regulating attention, mood, and behavior, in order to get complex tasks done well. We can think of EF as being like the little CEO in the frontal lobe.” (Davidson Gifted)
A child struggling with EF deficits may have difficulty starting or completing tasks, switching tasks, or following directions. Children struggling with EF deficits may be unorganized (including workspaces and backpacks), display an inability to manage their time or keep track of assignments, or become easily frustrated by routine changes.
It’s not “uncommon for high-ability learners to struggle with executive functions.” Asynchronous development, twice-exceptionality, or even lack of early challenge can be related to EF deficits. “Some gifted kids may have very fast processing speed, leading their brains to rapidly move from one topic to another, and leaving basic skills in their dust.” Gifted children whose processing speed shows a great lag behind their other cognitive processes may struggle to show task initiation skills that look like lack of motivation. (Kaleel and Kircher-Morris)
What are some of the consequences when EF deficits exist in a gifted child? These are smart kids who struggle with behavior regulation and exercising cognitive flexibility. Although identified as GT, they may have trouble beginning tasks, maintaining attention, completing assignments, and unable to assess the feedback on their own behavior. Frustration levels can go through the roof. As the GT child progresses through school, academic requirements increase at the same time as social interactions take on greater significance. EF difficulties may not resolve themselves until they reach their mid-twenties.
Strategies for developing EF skills can be employed in the classroom. Teachers can choose specific skills such as organization and work with the student to understand the nature of the executive function deficit. Students who display EF deficits need a patient teacher willing to work with them over time and provide positive encouragement to build skills incrementally. Oftentimes, small, simple steps have the most success.
Parents can make a difference when it comes to EF skills deficits in their children. Parents can engage in sincere and purposeful praise, encourage effort, and being sensitive to needs expressed by their child. Parents need to provide rules that are applied consistently, opportunities for enrichment, and encourage independence when helping their children develop EF skills over time. (Willingham)
A transcript of this chat may be found at Wakelet.
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About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: email@example.com
Executive Functioning in Gifted Students (pdf) https://bit.ly/2YUzfRh
Improving Executive Function Skills in Gifted Kids (YouTube 1:05:28)
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad