Executive Function & ADHD

ADHD and executive function are neither mutually exclusive nor synonymous. They go hand in hand. Most of the challenges of ADHD are linked to executive function abilities; however, weaker executive function abilities can come from other than ADHD such as learning characteristics. Therefore, everyone with ADHD plus many people without ADHD can also be struggling with weaker executive function skills. 

Executive Function

Executive function (EF) is a set of self-management skills in working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. It acts as the brain's command center to plan, filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set goals, and manage emotions and impulsive behaviors until the end. These functions are interrelated and the brain needs to operate in coordination with each other.

These skills are in use every day to make the best course of action. If you have a weaker executive function, it requires a tremendous amount of effort to carry out the plan from process initiation to task completion. they can have difficulty organizing and regulating behavior to continue engaging in the process to complete the task. 

Types of Executive Function Skills

  • Self-Regulation ----------------->

  • Attention & Focus --------------->


  • Task Initiation & Completion --->

  • Organization -------------------->

  • Planning & Prioritizing --------->


  • Time Management ------------->

  • Flexibility ------------------------>


Managing stress, anxiety, and impulsive behaviors

Develop scaffolding for the better attention span


Create a routine to start the task and remain engaged


Keep track of physical or digital materials or information


Map out the project and break it into smaller tasks


Allocate enough time to work on tasks or plan ahead to be on time

Adapt to sudden changes to a plan or situation


Executive Function Self Assessment Form Download

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ADHD is a neurological condition involving a developmental impairment of the self-management system. ADHD's characteristics are inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, and they can affect both children and adults. More than 6 million children (9.4%) in the U.S. are diagnosed at an early age (<17 yo). About 4 -5 % of U.S. adults also have it but they tend to not know about it. Almost 3/4 of this population is undiagnosed. One in third kids outgrow it, but others still have them as adults. 

Most ADHD challenges are tied with executive function skills. Up to 90% of people with ADHD have executive function challenges. However, executive function challenges do not always mean one has ADHD as one may have different reasons that caused executive function impairment. 

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