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What is executive functioning?

Executive functions are skills performed by our brain that help us to control and manage our thoughts and actions. Having the skills to organise and plan, shift attention, be flexible with thinking and self-regulate can all have an impact on how a young person copes with daily tasks. Evidence shows that individuals on the autism spectrum may have difficulties with some or all areas of executive functioning.

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Harvard University. Enhancing and Practicing Executive Function Skills with Children from Infancy to Adolescence. Download Report

Morin, A. Classroom Accommodations for Executive Functioning Issues (2020). Web Link

Sharples, J. Executive Functioning: Controlling the Mind. Web Link Executive Functioning Strategies for your Child. Web Link

Zelazo, P.D., Blair, C.B., and Willoughby, M.T. (2016). Executive Function: Implications for Education (NCER 2017-2000) Washington, DC: National Center for Education Research, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Download Report

Branstetter, R. (2016) The Conscious Parent's Guide to Executive Functioning Disorder: A Mindful Approach for Helping Your Child Focus and Learn. San Francisco: Adams Media

Cantin,R.H., Mann, T.D. & Hund,A.M. (2012). Executive Functioning Predicts School Readiness and Success: Implications for Assessment and Intervention. Communiqué, 40 (4), 1 – 2.

Centre of the Developing Child at Harvard University. (2011). Building the brain’s “Air traffic control system”: How early experiences shape the development of executive function. Working Paper No 11. Retrieved from

Corbett, B.A., Constantine, L.J., Hendren, R., Rocke, D. & Ozonoff, S. (2009). Examining executive functioning in children with autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and typical development. Psychiatry Research, 166 (2 – 3), 210 – 222.

Dawson, P., & Guare, R. (2010). Executive skills in children and adolescents: A practical guide to assessment and intervention. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Geurts, H.M. Verte´, S., Oosterlaan, J. Roeyers, H. & Sergeant, J.A. (2004). How specific are executive functioning deficits in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45(4), 836–854.

Happe, F., Booth, R., Charlton, R. & Hughes, C. (2006). Executive function deficits in autism spectrum disorders and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Examining profiles across domains and ages. Brain and Cognition, 61(1), 25-39.

Jackson, L. (2002). Freaks, Geeks & Asperger Syndrome. A User Guide to Adolescence. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Liss, M., Fein, D., Allen, D., Dunn, M., Feinstein, C., Morris, R., Waterhouse, L., & Rapin, I. (2001). Executive functioning in high-functioning children with autism.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 42(2), 261–270.

Moss, H. (2010). Middle School: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About. Kansas: Autism Asperger Publishing Co.

White, S.J, Burgess, P.W. & Hill, E.L. (2009). Impairments on ‘‘Open-Ended’’ Executive Function Tests in Autism. Autism Research, 2,138-147.

Zelazo, P. D., Blair, C. B., & Willoughby, M. T. (2016). Executive Function: Implications for Education. NCER 2017-2000. National Center for Education Research.

Ask An Autistic #25 - Video

What Is Executive Functioning?

Created by Amythest Schaber - November 14, 2015

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