ADHD & Executive Function Weakness

ATTENTION-DEFICIT/HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER (ADHD) & EXECUTIVE FUNCTION WEAKNESS

1Children, adolescents and adults with ADHD struggle to pay attention, maintain focus, control impulsivity, and are easily distracted. They often experience difficulty in their academic efforts and tasks of daily living. Parents may hear that their child or adolescent does not have ADHD, but may have "executive function weakness." What is executive function, and what part of the brain is involved with executive function?  The frontal lobe of the brain is involved with executive function. Similar to how a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the executive that determines how and what work will be done in a company, the frontal lobe of the brain is the, "CEO of the brain." It directs how and in what order tasks will be completed, everything from simple everyday tasks to complex higher order tasks. 

Individuals with executive function weakness or ADHD struggle in their efforts to plan, organize and complete their everyday tasks. They often experience difficulty in their home, school, work and social environments. Comprehensive assessment determines their areas of strength and weakness and recommendations are provided to help them succeed at school, home, and with their peers.

Neurodevelopmental evaluation for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) starts with assessing the areas of general cognitive and information processing (i.e. intellectual abilities) and academic functioning. Results of these assessments are compared to see how well the student is performing given his or her areas of cognitive strength and weakness. Testing for short- and long- term memory can be completed if deemed necessary. Measures for attention and executive functioning are also completed by the parent, teacher and student to assess specific areas of difficulty. Information regarding emotional and/or behavioral difficulties is gathered to assess any areas of emotional or behavioral concern. A diagnosis of ADHD should not be given unless all these areas are assessed for any other possible contributing factors to off-task behavior.

During these assessment sessions, students will sit at a table with the clinician while they complete each activity. They will use an iPad, will write in various workbooks, and answer questions that the clinician may ask. Some of the activities are challenging while others are easier. Many students find most of the activities to be enjoyable. Movement breaks are taken whenever necessary. Wiggle seats and judicious use of non-distracting fidgets are also available. Clinicians strive to ensure the process is a positive experience for the student.

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