top of page

Executive Function & ADHD

ADHD and executive function are not necessarily mutually exclusive nor interchangeable but somewhat interdependent. The majority of ADHD-related obstacles are closely tied to executive function capabilities.
Nevertheless, deficient executive function abilities may arise from causes other than ADHD, such as various learning characteristics. Consequently, individuals with ADHD, as well as those without, may face difficulties related to weaker executive function skills.

Executive Function

executive Function

Executive function (EF) represents a collection of self-management abilities, encompassing working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. Serving as the brain's central control unit, it coordinates various functions, including planning, filtering out distractions, prioritizing tasks, setting goals, and managing emotions and impulsive behaviors, among others. These abilities are intricately interdependent and require coordinated action within the brain.

These capabilities are continuously utilized in everyday life to identify and execute optimal courses of action. For individuals with weaker executive function, significant effort may be necessary to initiate and follow through with tasks from beginning to end. As a result, they may experience challenges in organizing and regulating behavior to sustain engagement with a given process and bring the task to completion.

Types of Executive Function Skills

  • Response Inhibition: The capacity to think before you act – this ability to resist the urge to say or do something allows us the time to evaluate a situation and how our behavior might impact it. In the young child, waiting for a short period without being disruptive is an example of response inhibition, while in the adolescent, it would be demonstrated by accepting a referee’s call without an argument.


  • Working Memory: The ability to hold information in memory while performing complex tasks. It incorporates the ability to draw on past learning or experience to apply to the situation at hand or to project into the future. A young child, for example, can hold in mind and follow 1‐2 step directions, while the middle school child can remember the expectations of multiple teachers.


  • Emotional Control: The ability to manage emotions to achieve goals, complete tasks, or control and direct behavior. A young child with this skill can recover from disappointment quickly. A teenager can manage the anxiety of a game or test and still perform.


  • Sustained Attention: The capacity to maintain attention to a situation or task despite distractibility, fatigue, or boredom. Completing a 5‐minute chore with occasional supervision is an example of sustained attention in the younger child. The teenager can attend to homework, with short breaks for one to two hours.


  • Task Initiation: The ability to begin projects without undue procrastination efficiently or timely. A young child can start a chore or assignment right after instructions are given. A high school student does not wait until the last minute to begin a project.


  • Planning/Prioritization: The ability to create a roadmap to reach a goal or to complete a task. It also involves being able to make decisions about what’s important to focus on and what’s not important. A young child, with coaching, can think of options to settle a peer conflict. A teenager can formulate a plan to get a job.


  • Organization: The ability to create and maintain systems to keep track of information or materials. A young child can, with a reminder, put toys in a designated place. An adolescent can organize and locate sports equipment.


  • Time Management: The capacity to estimate how much time one has, how to allocate it, and how to stay within time limits and deadlines. It also involves a sense that time is important. A young child can complete a short job within a time limit set by an adult. A high school student can establish a schedule to meet task deadlines.


  • Goal‐directed Persistence: The capacity to have a goal, follow through to the completion of the goal, and not be put off by or distracted by competing interests. A first grader can complete a job to get to recess. A teenager can earn and save money over time to buy something of importance.


  • Flexibility: The ability to revise plans in the face of obstacles, setbacks, new information, or mistakes. It relates to an adaptability to changing conditions. A young child can adjust to a change in plans without major distress. A high school student can accept an alternative such as a different job when the first choice is unavailable.


  • Metacognition: The ability to stand back and take a birds‐eye view of oneself in a situation. It is an ability to observe how you solve problems. It also includes self‐monitoring and self‐evaluative skills (e.g., asking yourself, “How am I doing? or How did I do?”). A young child can change behavior is response to feedback from an adult. A teenager can monitor and critique her performance and improve it by observing others who are more skilled.


  • Stress Tolerance: the ability to thrive in stressful situations and to cope with uncertainty, change, and performance demands.

Executive Function Self Assessment Form Download



ADHD is a neurological condition that involves a developmental impairment of the self-management system, with hallmark characteristics of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. These features can manifest in both children and adults, with a reported 6 million children (9.4%) in the United States being diagnosed before the age of 17. Among adults, an estimated 4-5% have ADHD, but many remain unaware of the condition, with nearly 75% of the affected population going undiagnosed. While some individuals may outgrow ADHD by adulthood, others continue to exhibit these symptoms throughout their lives.

The majority of ADHD-related challenges are closely linked to executive function skills, with up to 90% of individuals with ADHD experiencing executive function impairments. However, it is important to note that executive function challenges do not always indicate the presence of ADHD, as other factors may contribute to the impairment of these skills.


Typical ADHD Behaviors

  • Emotional Outburst

  • Working with Teammates

  • Flexibility or Compromise

  • Transitioning 

  • Perfectionism & Being Overwhelmed

  • Self-Criticism

  • Sensitivity to Comments

  • Resisting & Arguing

  • Procrastination

  • Hyperactivity & Distractibility

  • Specific Learning Modality

  • Time Blindness

  • Remote Learning

  • Lack of Motivation

Ways these traits translate into behaviors at work

  • Give up too soon when not interested or hard 

  • Estimate required time and plan ahead

  • Initiate tasks 

  • Adjust to sudden changes    

  • Complete tasks and follow through

  • Lack of motivation until the last minute

  • Take too long to transition between tasks 

  • Keep track of personal belongings

  • Emotional outbursts when the pressure gets too high

  • Self-criticism & withdrawn

  • Engage in uninteresting tasks

  • Too much time spent but accomplishing little

  • Desire to be perfect/handling disappointments

  • Wake up on time and get out of bed

  • Organe notes, data, and materials on the desk

  • When disagreed,​ argue, talk back, or start negotiating

  • Keep up with their daily hygiene

  • Cannot go to bed on time/takes too long to fall asleep

  • Cannot put down phones or quit games 

  • Get overwhelmed 

  • Time blindness

  • Lack of commitment unless interested in

  • Unable to delegate tasks or ask for help

  • Too keen on fairness, if not cannot let it go

  • LatenessTransitioning from fun tasks to boring tasks


Let's remind ourselves that ADHD is not a character flaw. All ADDers can shine with their great qualities. They can have not just one but a whole bunch of these qualities. 

  • Inspiring   

  • Brave    

  • Enthusiastic  

  • Eager

  • Resilient   

  • Influential  

  • Resourceful  

  • Talkative

  • Musical        

  • Inventive    

  • Opinionated   

  • Caring

  • Energetic     

  • Kind                     

  • Outgoing             

  • Big-Hearted

  • Adaptable            

  • Intuitive             

  • Memorable          

  • Friendly

  • Honest                 

  • Entertaining     

  • Curious                

  • Adventurous

  • Passionate         

  • Outspoken         

  • Creative                 

  • Fun                             

  • Generous           

  • Humorous          

  • Empathetic         

  • Spontaneous

  • Authentic            

  • Inclusive             

  • Charismatic       

  • Futuristic

  • Out-of-Box Thinker

How many of these are "YOU"? Through coaching, we will find your superpower and how we can utilize that quality in a way to overcome your challenges. 

bottom of page