Executive Functioning & ADHD: Why Potiental is hard to reach
Executive functions play a manager role in ADHD. They are cognitive abilities that help people to manage their behaviours in order to achieve their goals. Essentially, executive functions can be understood as how we use our thoughts to control our behaviours. The better a person is at using their cognitive skills, then the better chances of them choosing appropriate behaviours used to complete their goals. This aligns well with the saying, 'you can do anything you set your mind to.' However, in instances of ADHD, these functions may not work as well and thus people with ADHD often struggle to reach their goals as they can lack the ability to choose better actions to help them. Thus, despite some media criticism’s that ADHD is just laziness, lack of discipline or care; ADHD is often out of the persons control.
Depending on which executive functions are impacted and the severity of the impact will determine what sorts of everyday tasks are affected and to what extent.
Types of Executive Functions and Implications for ADHD
1. Inhibition: the ability to control Impulses.
- What does lower Inhibition in ADHD look like? Blurting out answers, engaging in risky/dangerous behaviours, interrupting conversations
2. Attentional control: ability to focus attention.
- What does lower attentional control in ADHD look like? Struggling to focus and sustain attention on tasks for long periods of time like reading a book.
3. Emotional regulation: the ability to control emotions.
- What does lower emotional regulation look like in ADHD? Overacting to situations, emotional outbursts such as tantrums
4. Working Memory: the ability to remember important information while performing another task simultaneously.
- What does lower working memory in ADHD look like? They find it hard to multitask like forgetting to pack lunch while getting dressed for school/work.
5. Self-Motivation: the ability to be motivated to perform tasks despite the lack of external reward for behaviour.
- What does a lack of Self-Motivation in ADHD look like? They won’t put away toys unless offered a chocolate for doing so or put little effort into a work task they see little self benefit in.
6. Planning and Prioritising: the ability to organise the order of steps in completing a task.
- What does lower planning and prioritising looks like in ADHD? Unable to work out what parts of an assignment/work task are most important.
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