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Executive Functioning

By: Nika, Lisa, Sarah, Alexis and Traci

Overview of Presentation
• Definitions of executive function

•Executive function and the brain
•Population of students that have executive function disorders •How does a deficit in executive functioning affect student’s behavior? •How can we as educators help?

A Few Definitions
“The executive functions are a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one's resources in order to achieve a goal. It is an umbrella term for the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation.”(Cooper-Kahn & Dietzel, 2008). “Executive function is the ability to selectively attend to, work with, and plan for specific information.”(Tanner, 2009). Executive function is “the ability to regulate one’s behavior through working memory, inner speech, control of emotions and arousal levels, and analysis of problems and communication of problem solutions to others”(Hallahan, Kauffman, & Pullen, 2012, p. 459).

A Few Theories
• Peg Dawson, Ed. D. and Richard Guare, Ph.D.-12 separate but interrelated skills make up executive function • Russell Barkley, Ph.D.-executive functions allow for self-regulation; behavioral inhibition is the primary executive function that all others evolve from • Thomas Brown, Ph.D.-six clusters of cognitive functions: activation, focus, effort, emotion, memory, and action

Examples of Good Executive Functioning
•Mental flexibility
•Good planning •Organization •Self-monitoring

Examples of Executive Function Deficits • • • • Inefficiency Disorganization Forgetfulness Difficulty understanding consequences .

Executive Functions • • • • • • • • • • • • Flexibility Goal-directed persistence Metacognition Organization Planning Regulation of affect Response inhibition Social thinking Sustained attention Task initiation Time management Working memory .



•California Verbal Learning Test-Children’s Version(CVLT-C): verbal learning and memory deficits •Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning(BRIEF): behavior functioning .Executive Function Assessment •Wisconsin Card Sorting Test(WCST): abstract reasoning and ability to shift cognitive strategies in response to environmental changes.

) • Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System(D-KEFS): wide range of verbal and non-verbal executive functions – 9 Subtests: • • • • • • • • • Trail-Making Test Verbal Fluency Design Fluency Color-Word Interference Test Sorting Test Twenty Questions Test Word Context Test Tower Test Proverbs Test .Executive Function Assessment(cont.

D-KEFS Color-Word Interference Word Reading Task: Look at the words below and read them as quickly as you can without making any mistakes. red blue green yellow blue green red green blue red blue yellow green yellow red green red green yellow blue green blue red blue .

You are to name the color of the ink that the letters are printed in not read the word.D-KEFS Color-Word Interference Word Reading Task: Look at this page.the color names are printed in a different colored ink.. red blue green yellow blue green red green blue red blue yellow green yellow red green red green yellow blue green blue red blue ..

D-KEFS Color-Word Interference Word Reading Task: This time. you should read the word and not name the ink color. But if a word is inside a little box. red blue green yellow blue green red green blue red blue yellow green yellow red green red green yellow blue green blue red blue . for many of the words you are to name the color of the ink and not read the words.

D-KEFS Color-Word Interference Word Reading Test: •As the demand on Executive Functioning becomes greater. the number words/colors read correctly decreases. •Looks at the student’s ability to control impulsiveness in verbal problem solving. •“The D-KEFS Color-Word Interference Test can be used by the school psychologist to evaluate both cognitive flexibility and a student’s ability to inhibit unplanned. 121). 2005. . impulsive responses within the verbal modality”(Swanson. p.

Executive Function and Effects on the Brain By Lisa M. Goritz Section 2 .

Two Words to Remember Hello Friends Frontal Lobe & Cortex .

• Located top front part of brain behind forehead .The Frontal Lobe Of The Brain • The frontal lobe had a major impact on executive function.

judgment.The Role of Frontal Lobe • The frontal lobe: continues to develop through adolescence and into adult life. • Manages: Body movement. planning and completing tasks. . attention. motivation. emotions. working memory and meeting goals. abstract reasoning. • Thinking functions: decision making.

memories and abilities. .Cortex Of The Brain • The cortex is the site in the brain where lower level processes like sensation and perception are processed and integrated into thoughts. the frontal cortex develops more slowly than other parts of the brain and many executive functions do not fully develop until adolescence. and actions are planned and initiated. • People with frontal lobe injuries have difficulty with the higher level processing that underlies executive functions. • Because of its complexity.


Tests Used For Executive Function • MRI • CT Scans • How Are Problems with Executive Function Identified? – There is no single test or even battery of tests that identifies all of the different features of executive function. psychologists. and others use a variety of tests to identify problems. – Educators. . – Careful observation and trial teaching are invaluable in identifying and better understanding weaknesses in this area. speech-language pathologists.

Fun Test Time Get a sheet of paper out!!! .

Test Used for Executive Function • In one minute. how many animals can you think of that start with the letter "S"? .

) – Shark – Seal – Swan – Salamander – Squirrel – Salmon Snail Skunk Starling Seagull Stork Serpent .Tests Used For Executive Function (cont.

Psych and Developmental disorders • Executive function deficits are associated with a number of psychiatric and developmental disorders including: • Obsessive-compulsive disorder • Tourette's syndrome • Depression • Schizophrenia • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder • Autisim .

Anti-Social .

but there is also evidence suggesting that problems with executive functions may contribute to the development of substance use disorders. . • Some of these deficits appear to result from heavy substance use.Anti-social Behavior • Executive function deficits also appear to play a role in antisocial behavior. • Chronic heavy users of drugs and alcohol show impairments on tests of executive function.

Damage To The Brain • Damage to the frontal lobe or the cells that send information to the frontal lobes may result in decline function. • In the case of an injury to the fontal lobe such as stroke or head injury there may be a sudden loss of functions from this area of the brain. .

Impact of Stroke .


Alzheimer’s/Dementia .

cause frontal dementia. .Dementia/Alzheimer's • Slow progressive decline. • The way the brain forms tangles in executive function will have an interference with memory. inappropriate responses. • Some days executive function may be better or worse. attention span. Decline in thinking.

Picture of Dementia/Normal .

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder .

• Parents and educators realize that deficits in critical cognitive skills known as executive functions (EF) are slower to mature in many children with ADHD .ADHD • Five years ago. most parents and teachers of students with ADHD didn't have a clue that a child's academic success was contingent upon strong executive skills.

• This helps explain why their executive skills are delayed. • In 2007.ADHD Cont. scientists found that the part of the brain that enables students to work on "boring tasks"• such as school work has a reduced number of dopamine receptors and transporters. • Which is why students with ADHD have the capability to play video games for hours vs doing homework. • Two years later. . researchers made a startling discovery: the brains of students with ADHD mature three years more slowly than their peers.

Right frontal lobe is smaller with children with ADHD. .ADHD MRI • MRI and CT to look at differences of the brain for children with ADHD.

.ADHD • Basal Ganglia has been believed to be responsible for ADHD.

Autism .

• If there is an excess number of neurons. finds a new study that could advance research into the disorder. .Autism • The brains of children with autism have far more neurons in the prefrontal cortex than the brains of kids without autism. there must be a negative consequence to that in the way the brain becomes wired or organized.

researchers examined postmortem brain tissue from seven boys with autism and six boys without autism who were aged 2 to 16 when they died.than boys without autism of a similar age. . preliminary study.a type of brain cell and a fundamental building block of the nervous system -.Autism Study • In a small. • The children with autism had on average 67 percent more neurons -.

Tourettes .

.Tourettes • The Tourettes brain shows alterations in the white-matter connections that allow different brain areas to communicate with one another. • Brain scans also revealed changes in activity as indicated by blood flow when people with Tourette syndrome performed an executive function task.

are strongly linked to levels of tic severity and executive task performance. the region most often linked to executive function. .Tourettes • Researchers found that changes in the frontal cortex of the Tourettes brain.

The End .

Alexis’ Turn…Part 4 • Executive Functioning Processes (Students frequently succeed in problem -Planning solving and conceptual reasoning. self-Prioritizing monitoring and selecting appropriate work) -Shifting -Memorizing -Checking . but may have -Organizing difficulty initiating work. shifting strategies.

and shifting mindsets.School • First-graders are assigned increasingly challenging homework. accessing working memory. including setting goals. planning. • At the middle and high school levels. . prioritizing. and the literacy expectations have risen to include the ability to write simple book reports. • Many students may therefore be required to complete academic tasks that are developmentally and cognitively too challenging. complex multistep projects are assigned that require weeks of independent research in multiple domains and involve numerous executive function processes.

g. math problem solving.. • (e. spelling.g. summarizing. .School Continued… • Many of these students may have been successful in early elementary school. essay writing). • They begin to experience academic difficulties in the upper grades when they are required to integrate many skills in order to complete complex. and computation). open-ended tasks independently • (e. decoding. math facts.. reading comprehension. where the focus has been on developing isolated skills .

.Executive Functioning Difficulties • Their strong conceptual reasoning abilities may not match their output and productivity because of their difficulties organizing and prioritizing numerous details. • Difficulties emerge as the academic curriculum becomes more complex and conceptually demanding. • Info may become clogged or stuck. • Students are required to synthesize and organize large amounts of info. so they cannot initiate new tasks or shift flexibility.

e. i.Affects Learning & Strategies • Difficulty planning a project • Trouble comprehending how much time a project with take to complete • Struggles to tell a story or communicating details in sequence • Difficulty retaining information while doing something with it. remembering a phone number while dialing • Take step-by-step approaches • Use tools like time organizers. estimating how long tasks will take . computers or watches with alarms • Visual schedules and review them a few times a day • Ask for written directions with oral instructions • Plan and structure transition times and shifts in activites • Create checklists.

including time management. sequencing information.Independent studying. and long-term projects • Challenging for many students with learning disabilities as they advance to the higher grades. • Tasks are highly dependent on executive function processes and require students to plan ahead. as they involve several aspects of organization. • Self-regulation and self-monitoring are critical to create independence. predict outcomes. and set long-term goals. bringing tasks to completion. • “Independent projects are particularly challenging for students with weak executive function processes. . homework. acquiring the materials and information needed to complete tasks. and remembering to submit them in time to earn credit” (Meltzer).

Test taking • Places demands on a student’s ability to plan and execute specific responses on demand. 1995. Students with learning disabilities frequently struggle to perform appropriately on tests and cannot easily “show what they know” (Meltzer & Montague. easily understand the format of textbooks and may not recognize sidebars. • Many students with learning disabilities do not easily manage their time. 1995). or tables of contents as tools for organizing and prioritizing information. and do not prioritize their tasks. diagrams. • They may not: listen to cues from teachers. use cues from the classroom and from print to predict possible questions on upcoming tests and to plan potential responses. struggle to identify the most important information for studying. Scruggs & Mastropieri. .

and a person’s executive abilities are shaped by both physical changes in the brain and by life experiences.The bottom line… • “The brain continued to mature and develop connections well into adulthood. 2008). in the classroom and in the world at large. Early attention to developing efficient skills in this areas can be very helpful and frequent reassurance and explicit feedback are strongly recommended” (National Center for Learning Disabilities. .

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