Tag Archives: Executive Functioning Disorder

Teaching Your Child Organizational Skills

Organizational skills are very important in learning for children and adults of all ages. When they are lacking, a person struggles in unstructured tasks or in completing work independently and efficiently. Usually, a child develops better organizational skills as they age, being able to meet age-appropriate expectations. Still, children with even the best of organizational skills may struggle with major transitions, such as the transition from elementary to secondary school.

Other children have difficulties in organizational skills. Some can learn to overcome these as they mature, while others lag further and further behind. I am an example of the latter. In elementary school, I aced most classes, compensating for my lack of organizational skills by my high intelligence. In secondary school, I still did well because I had learned to read faster. I could therefore read the material being tested once at the last moment and still get a decent grade. Academically, my organizational skills didn’t get the better part of me till I was in college, when one reason I dropped out was my inability to plan my work.

Organizational skills are part of executive functioning. If a child struggles with organizational skills despite adequate parenting and teaching intervetnions, it might be that they have a learning disability or attention deficit disorder, but some kids have executive functioning difficulties without a learning disability or ADD/ADHD.

Here are some tips for encouraging the non-disabled child to develop their organizational skills. Some of these strategies will work to an extent with children with executive functioning difficulties too. At the end of this post, I will give some tips for dealing with kids with executive functioning difficulties specifically.

1. Use checklists. Help your child develop a to-do list. That way, the child will be able to visualize what they stll need to do and what they’ve already done. Have your child carry a notebook with them for writing down assignmnets and household chores. Have the child check off items that have been completed. You may need to monitor that they don’t check off unfinished tasks. You can have your child use step-by-step checklists for cleaning their room, too.

2. Use calendars and schedules. On a calendar, you will put all family members’ important appointments. It depends on you and your child how detailed a calendar needs to be or can be. On a weekly schedule, you list each family member’s household chores.

3. Buy your child a planner. Have them choose one that suits them or buy one for them that appeals to them. The child can put activities into their planner, but you’ll need to help them get their planner in sync with the family calendar to avoid conflict.

4. Involve your child in cleaning and cooking activities. Particurly cooking is a fun way to learn organizational skills. A child will need to learn to read a recipe, check steps they have already completed, assemble the right tools and ingredients, etc. Involve your child in meal planning too, challenging them to help you write a shopping list. Cleaning, while not as fun, is a necessary task that also requires organization.

As I said, many of these strategies will work for a child with executive functioning difficulties too. They may need more support while learning to organize their day. Here are some tips for helping a child with EFD to learn to become the best organizer they can be:


  1. Use written and/or visual step-by-step guides for chores and assignments. Incorporate as much detail as the child needs – I needed every step almost literally spelled out.

  2. Have specific tasks on a specific day of the week. Don’t have too many tasks in one day. For example, Monday is for cleaning the child’s room, while Thursday is for organizing their backpack. That way, the child will get into the habit of performing these tasks.

  3. Discuss new or unexpected situations with your child and help them prepare for what might happen.

  4. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Often, children with EFD have trouble learning to automate a skill, so you may need to help them, instruct them and supervise them for a longer time than you would a non-disabled child. Use the same schedules, reminders etc. for the same tasks over and over again.


It is very important to realize that your child with EFD is not being lazy, but they have a disability that makes it harder for them to organie their work. You may need to provide more support for them to complete their chores or homework than you would a similar-age non-disabled child.

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Finding Answers in Disability Limbo

A few months ago, I wrote a post about my need to belong somewhere within the disability community and my possibly intruding upon communities I don’t belong to. One such community is that for brain injury patients. As far as I was concerned, “brain injury” was always followed by “sustained after birth” or preceded by “traumatic” or “acquired”. Yet brain injury can occur at birth too. Only then it’s not called brain injury, right?

Since my autism diagnosis is being questioned again, I’m feeling an increased need to figure out what exactly is wrong with me. In part, this entails putting a name to what I have. Are my motor deficits diagnosable as dyspraxia, mild cerebral palsy, or are they not diagnosable at all? Am I autistic or not? Then again, putting a name to my disabilities is but one of my quests. As I’ve experienced, most communities are open to those with an uncertain diagnosis, so it’s not that I need to have a diagnosis to fit in with a support group.

Back when I was diagnosed with autism, I didn’t want a specific ASD diagnosis. The psychologist, who ultimately gave me an Asperger’s diagnosis anyway, said he wanted to do an assessment of my strengths and weaknesses. I don’t know whether a quick DSM-IV interview amounts to that, but to me, a lot of questions remain unanswered.

It could be my slight neuropsychology obsession, but I want to know why I have issues I do have. I want to understand, in a way, why I can’t function at the level I’m supposed to given my intelligence and verbal abilities. Is it normal to be unable to load the dishwasher but able to write a lengthy blog post? I don’t think a diagnosis, whether it’s autism or brain injury, will answer this question per se, but what will? It is most likely that I have quite bad executive dysfunction, but can this at all be validated? Should it?

It isn’t purely that I’m overanalytical and want to understand my every bit of brain function. It’s more that I’m struggling terribly with being seen as more “high-functioning” than I am in daily life. Not that I want to reinforce the stereotypes surrounding the Asperger’s diagnosis, but my mere existence won’t defeat them either, and I’m sick and tired of having to prove myself.

Executive Functioning Disorder (EFD)

Lately, I’ve mentioned executive functioning problems a lot. Though executive functioning disorder (EFD) is not formally recognized, it is pretty common in individuals with ADHD, learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders, particularly Asperger’s Syndrome. So what is executive functioning disorder?

First, let me explain what executive functioning is. Executive functioning is a set of mental processes that enable people to connect past experience to present actions. These processes include planning, organization, motivation, maintaining attention, anticipation of alternative consequences, and generalization of what has been learned. People with EFD have impairments in many of these areas. Thogh executive functioning is often related to attention, not all people with EFD also have attention deficit disorder.

Here are a number of characteristics of executive functioning disorder:


  1. Difficulty ad/or apparent lack of interest in setting goals.

  2. Difficulty initiating a task or generating ideas independently.

  3. Difficulty comprehending how much time a task will take.

  4. Troulbe telling a story (in spoken or written language) because of difficulty organizing details.

  5. Inability to stop and think of a strategy to solve a problem.

  6. Continuing to use the same strategy to solve a problem, even when it’s ineffective.

  7. Difficulty following instructions that consist of multiple steps.

  8. Swinging from impulsivity to rigidity.

  9. Difficulty handling change.

  10. Inability to reflect on past experience to plan for the future.

  11. Past consequences don’t effect future behavior.

  12. Little awarness of or interest in learning about personal limitations or weaknesses.

  13. Mood swings and emotional instability. May react to emotions rather than verbalizing feelings.

  14. Seeing personal problems as externally caused; inability to see one’s own contribution to a problem.

  15. Difficulty taking another person’s perspective.

  16. Risk-taking or thrill-seeking.

There are a number of situations in which a person’s executive functioning disorder may interfere with their academic, social and daily living skills. In the area of time management, I have a lot of difficulty thinking of what to do during the day. This is not because I have few obligations – oh well, that is part of the problem too -, but even when I have a lot to do, I can’t seem to organize or plan for it. I procrastinate, too, as do most people even without EFD, but in my case, it’s sometimes due to inability to organize an activity. Initiating an activity may also be a particularly hard skill for people with EFD. This is sometiems called inertia.

In the area of problem-solving, I have a hard time following instructions that aren’t spelled out. I don’t have troubl memorizing multiple steps, but they do need to be clearly stated. For example, last week, I was planning on going for a walk. I had my shoes off and the nurse told me to put on my shoes. I did, but I didn’t put on my coat. I am not particularly literal-minded, so that wasn’t really the problem. Now that I think of it, I realize that maybe besides sensory processing difficulties, EFD might contribute to why I have a hard time deciding on which clothes are appropritate for the weather. In school, I had specific rules on what to wear during specific tempetrautres. I have been in situatiosn where it was over 30_C and I was still wearing a sweater because I hadn’t watched the weather forecast.

Emotion regulation problems may or may not be due to EFD in my case, since borderline personality disorder causes these problems too, and I exhibit some stereotypical BPD reactions. Then again, low frustration tolerance, which is not per se a BPD characteristic, is definitely related to executive functioning, and this has always been said to be a core problem of mine.