Executive function is the ability to make decisions, specifically to come up with solutions to problems, plan a response, carry out the response and then evaluate that response. This capability closes follows the development of the prefrontal cortex and governs the ability to organize one's self and one's environment, to plan for the future and to control one's impulses. When there is a disorder of executive function, children (generally it's children as their prefrontal lobe is still immature) frequently lose things, even particularly precious things. They can't organize their room, their desk or their locker. Keeping track of homework in middle school, for example, is a disaster. Fortunately, most people outgrow these issues by the time their brain matures in their early '20s.
Dr. Philip David Zelazo, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, has written a six-part series about Executive Function, its orders and disorders.
"How do we learn to think? How does an easily distracted baby become an adult who can evaluate a problem, make a plan to solve it, and carry out the plan? Executive function – the conscious control of what we think and do – takes years to develop fully and affects many different facets of children’s mental development, from their understanding of other people’s points of view to their ability to focus on a task. If executive function goes awry, it may result in disorders such as autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
In this series, Dr. Philip Zelazo takes an in-depth look at how executive function develops in infancy, childhood, and adolescence; disorders of executive function; and how to foster its development."
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