Does your child struggle with any of the following?

  • Paying attention
  • Organizing, planning, and prioritizing
  • Knowing what his/her/their assignments entail
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Starting tasks and staying focused on them to completion
  • Understanding multi-step directions
  • Respecting different points of view
  • Regulating emotions
  • Self-monitoring (keeping track of what you’re doing)

If any of the above are applicable, your child may need assistance with executive functioning. It is underestimated how much executive functioning deficits can negatively impact a child in the school environment, even leading to full-fledged school avoidance. Sadly, unless your child is in a self-contained classroom for students with disabilities or a private school for students with disabilities, most public schools do not incorporate executive functioning skills into the curriculum. Rather, in middle school and high school, study hall periods are often made available to students but it is incumbent upon the student to avail himself/herself/their self to approach the teacher for assistance. Most students are unable to identify the crux of their struggles so asking for help is not even a viable solution.

What we commonly see in our practice, is teachers perceiving students who either do not hand in homework or hand in homework late, as being lazy; leading students feeling despair and anxiety. Some teachers offer to utilize google classroom to help students keep better track of their assignments but in most cases, for a student struggling with executive functioning, google classroom is confusing and challenging for them to utilize. If a student does not receive the proper support, managing college or a job can be incredibly challenging and frustrating.

How can you identify executive functioning deficits?

There is no official disorder associated with executive functioning, however, weaker executive functioning skills often accompany ADD/ADHD and can be assessed through particular assessments such as the Brown Executive Functioning/Attention Scales. Such tests are most often administered by a neuropsychologist but you certainly ask your local district if they can administer an executive functioning assessment and if they don’t have one available, you can ask them to pay for a neuropsychological evaluation. You will likely have to demonstrate an educational impact, however, to convince your school district to assume financial responsibility for this assessment.

What services and supports are available in your public school

If you believe your child is struggling with executive functioning deficits obtaining an assessment can lead to your child receiving a 504 Plan, Intervention & Referral Services (“I&RS Plan”) and/or an Individualized Education Program (“IEP”). To be eligible for a 504 Plan or an IEP, weaknesses in executive functioning alone, will not suffice. Rather, for a 504 Plan, your child will need to have a physical or mental impairment that impacts a daily life activity. Since executive function deficits are not alone considered an impairment, your child will need a recognized physical or mental impairment that impacts executive function to be eligible for a 504 Plan, such as ADHD. To be eligible for an IEP, he/she/they will need to fit into one of the 14 classification categories set forth in the regulations governing special education, such as Autism, a Specific Learning Disability, or Other Health Impaired. [1] Obtaining an I&RS Plan does not require any specific diagnosis, but rather, only documented areas of struggle.

Regardless of the plan developed, it is essential to advocate for appropriate services and/or accommodations to address your child’s executive functioning deficits. Jody L. Paul, an executive functioning coach in Westfield, New Jersey, recommends the following tools and accommodations, which of course will vary depending upon the student’s individual needs and age:

  • Use of a planner that’s not too heavy, and has spaces for each subject, pre-printed dates, and time slots listed for after school and weekend hours. One such example is a planner called Order Out of Chaos;
  • Use of binders that have dividers with folders;
  • Access to: teacher created notes, outline of the lesson, and the test format ahead of time so the student can focus on content;
  • Extended time on tests and homework;
  • Teacher assistance in breaking down large assignments into smaller, more manageable tasks;
  • Repetition of verbal instructions from teacher;
  • Check for student understanding;
  • Visual cues;
  • Teacher monitored agenda usage;
  • Preferential seating based on the individual needs of the student (some students do best in front of the teacher and instructional material whereas other students do better in the back of the room);
  • Meeting with a teacher or counselor at the end of the school day for 10-15 minutes to ensure all needed materials for homework are in the student’s possession, ensure understanding of homework directions, and assist with establishing a plan for the execution of assignments;
  • Teacher created checklist for materials and steps to undertake an assignment;
  • Use of speech to software;
  • Have a daily routine that changes as little as possible, and provide notice (when possible) of schedule changes;
  • Teacher use of attention-getting phrases like, “This is important to know because….”;
  • Give simple and concrete written and spoken directions;
  • Highlight key words and ideas on worksheets;
  • Allow different ways to answer questions, like circling or saying them;
  • Reduction of work content;
  • Take tests/quizzes in a quiet room outside of the classroom; and
  • Provide an extra set of books for the student to keep at home.

Should you wish to seek assistance regarding your child’s 504 or IEP, please give our office a call at 973-376-7733.

Jody L. Paul, MA, CCC—SLP

547 East Broad Street, Westfield



[1] N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.5