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Adhd Executive Function Adults

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Study Design And Procedure

What is Executive Function – How it Relates to ADHD

This is a descriptive cross-sectional design between a group of adults with a childhood ADHD diagnosis twelve years after the initial diagnosis and a N-ADHD group, that were matched on sex, age and IQ estimated Participants with ADHD came from the Spanish sample from the International Multicenter ADHD Genetics study, a prospective study of children with ADHD with combined subtype , recruited between 2003 and 2006. Clinical diagnosis was based on combining information from the Parental Account of Childhood Symptoms interview and the DSM-IV items on Conners parent and teacher questionnaires . Exclusion criteria included a diagnosis of autism, epilepsy, IQ< 70, or brain disorders .

Data for the present study were gathered in two evaluation sessions held in an office that met optimal conditions in the Faculty of Psychology at the University. A clinical psychologist with accredited experience and a senior investigator performed the assessment in separate sessions with the participant and a family informant. The participants were given the instructions as they appear in the respective manuals of questionnaires, and they filled them out in approximately 50-min sessions. Everyone who was taking medication as part of the diagnosis stopped taking it 48h before the evaluation and on the two days it lasted.

Trusted Online Adhd Treatment For Adults With Focus Partners

On top of the effects of the deficits themselves, having trouble with executive functioning often makes people with ADHD feel ashamed and embarrassed. They may feel like theyre not living up to their full potential, or that their peers are more accomplished than they are.

An executive function deficit does not make you stupid, lazy, or irresponsible. And with the right treatment, ADHD symptoms can become a lot easier to manage. Focus Partners can help with out telehealth-based online ADHD treatment for adults, and were here to listen to you and help unlock the full power of your potential. Get started by taking our initial online ADHD assessment and find your focus now. Our team currently provides ADHD treatment services online in Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and New York.

How Executive Dysfunction Overlaps With Adhd

Executive dysfunction isnt a diagnosis on its own. Its also not the same thing as ADHD . While people with ADHD experience executive dysfunctions, people can also experience them without ADHD.

There is an overlap between ADHD symptoms and executive dysfunction, though. This can be explained by the fact that many symptoms of ADHD, as discussed earlier, stem from issues with executive functioning.

Overlaps in ADHD symptoms and executive dysfunction include difficulties with:

  • Paying attention
  • Considering consequences of actions

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How Are Executive Function Problems Diagnosed

Because executive function problems arenât recognized as an official illness, there isnât a set of criteria you can use to diagnose someone. But there are tests to gauge how well your executive function works. These include:

  • Barkley Deficits in Executive Functioning Scale : This tool helps screen for problems with executive function tasks like organization, self-restraint, motivation, emotional control, and time management. It can provide information on how the person acts over a period of time, too, as opposed to other tests, which only provide in-the-moment information.
  • Comprehensive Executive Function Inventory : This scale measures executive function strengths and weaknesses in kids from 5 to 18. Parents, teachers, and kids ages 12-18 can take part in the evaluation
  • Conners 3-Parent Rating Scale: This measures behavior in kids ages 6-18. It helps identify learning problems in specific subjects, like reading, spelling, math and also in terms of broader concepts like memory. Parents, teachers, and kids themselves can contribute.

Trouble With Flexible Thinking

Pin on Executive Functioning in Kids

Some individuals do not learn how to use flexible thinking intuitively. Others must be taught these core concepts more explicitly.

Those with trouble being flexible may be rule-bound and rigid in their thinking. They may not be willing to negotiate with other people. They tend to be poor problem solvers and will repeatedly try the same solution that isnt working. A person with reduced flexibility may have a hard time switching plans once they have been set.

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The History Of Executive Dysfunction

While the concept of executive function has been around since the 1800s, Russell Barkley, PhD,who is an author and clinical professor of psychiatry, is credited with publicizing the problem of executive dysfunction specifically as it relates to people with ADHD.

Numerous studies have been done in recent years by assorted scientists about the relationship between executive dysfunction and different brain issues, ranging from ADHD to neurodegenerative diseases.

Executive Functions Adhd: How To Improve Executive Functions In Adhd Adults

No matter how severe, executive functions ADHDcan always be improved. When looking for executive function training for ADHD, its important to find an executive functions coach that understands your needs. In the case of adult executive functioning and ADHD coaching, its often found that their executive function skills are the results of years of habits. As its become a lifestyle, theyve found themselves unable to break these patterns or have tried treatment in youth but didnt have success. Thus, adults with executive functions ADHDoften feel discouraged and reluctant to try coaching, believing that its too late to develop their executive function skills.

Interested in Executive Functions ADHD Training with EFC?

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Can Executive Function Be Improved In Adults

This can be a difficult question to answer because of the multitude of ways that an executive functioning difficulties present themselves in adults. There are just so many functional tasks that can be broken down into functional participating.

When taking into consideration the skill areas that make up executive functioning skills, addressing the areas of working memory, attention, organization, prioritization, planning, self-motivation, emotional regulation, problem solving, inhibitionthere are many areas to work on when it comes to improving executive functioning skills in adults.

This is to say, however, that it is possible to make habit changes, adaptations, and cognitive, behavioral changes that improve the ability to complete tasks. In the ault with executive functioning disorder, working on small steps and through tools such as lists, organizational changes, coaching, apps, or progress planners, it is possible to make positive changes in the tasks that are impacted by executive functioning issues.

Here are some action plans that can be used to improve executive functioning skills in adults:

  • Use lists
  • Identify strategies to cope and regulate moods better

Recognizing The Key Signs Of Executive Function Disorder In Adults

the 12 core strategies for ADULT ADHD & Executive Function (Tips to live by)

The basics of Executive Function Disorder stem from issues with focus. In general terms, the disorder divides and distorts the focus centers of the brain, making it hard for many to complete what would be basic tasks.

There are many who may view the symptoms of Executive Function Disorder as distracted, overemotional, or even lazy.

The truth of the matter is for many it can be close to impossible to attempt these small functions with regularity.

To recognize this disorder, you need to catch some of the key symptoms. While this list is not comprehensive, and some of the symptoms can range from major to minor, all of these can still point towards Executive Function Disorder.

You can alsoschedule a free introductory call to get matched with a speech language therapist on our team to address your challenges with executive function, and learn different skills to help you succeed in your personal and professional life.

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How To Manage Executive Function Problems

Here are some tips from the National Center for Learning Disabilities:

  • Take a step-by-step approach to work.
  • Rely on visual aids to get organized.
  • Use tools like time organizers, computers, or watches with alarms.
  • Make schedules, and look at them several times a day.
  • Ask for written and oral instructions whenever possible.
  • Plan for transition times and shifts in activities.

To improve time management:

  • Create checklists, and estimate how long each task will take.
  • Break long assignments into chunks, and assign time frames for completing each one.
  • Use calendars to keep track of long-term assignments, due dates, chores, and activities.
  • Write the due date on the top of each assignment.

To better manage space and keep things from getting lost:

  • Have separate work areas with complete sets of supplies for different activities.
  • Organize the workspace.
  • Schedule a weekly time to clean and organize the workspace.

To improve work habits:

  • Make a checklist for getting through assignments. For example, a student’s checklist could include such items as: get out pencil and paper put name on paper put due date on paper read directions etc.
  • Meet with a teacher or supervisor on a regular basis to review work and troubleshoot problems.
  • There are also executive function coaches or tutors who can help you sharpen the way you plan and carry out tasks.

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Behavior And Emotion Control

How we behave and control our emotions plays a big role in how we relate to other people. Those with executive dysfunction might have a harder time than other people regulating their emotions. When you can’t regulate how you feel, it becomes very hard to control how you behave. This can lead to behavioral problems, and cause interpersonal conflicts.

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Who Is Prone To Executive Functioning Disorder12

Some people are born with weak executive function.

People with ADHD, depression, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or learning disabilities often have executive functioning weaknesses.

Difficulty with executive functioning has also been associated with adult Bipolar Disorder and OCD. Experiencing a brain injury, suffering a stroke, or sustaining damage from Alzheimers can also cause a loss of executive functioning.

While depression and anxiety do not have to co-occur with EFD, they are likely to present in conjunction with it. Adults may mistake EFD for laziness or a lack of intelligence, which children pick up on. Furthermore, as academic demands begin to increase and children recognize that for some reason they cannot keep up, this can lead to anxiety and low self-esteem.

An Example Of Executive Function Skills In A College Student

How are ADHD and executive functioning related?

A college student has a professor that communicates with his class about upcoming assignments and exams using an app. The professor asks his students to submit assignments using a different web-based platform. The student has a different professor who wants to use a completely different online platform for submitting assignments and sends out a weekly Zoom invitation to connect for weekly web-based classes. In this situation, the student must rely on the professors organizational skills and familiarity with technology. The student must also have very strong organizational and planning skills to be successful in their classes.

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Executive Function And The Adhd Brain

The What Circuit: Goes from the frontal lobe especially the outer surface back into an area of the brain called the basal ganglia, particularly a structure called the striatum. The What Circuit is linked to working memory, so its in this circuit that what we think starts to guide what we do. This is particularly true when it comes to plans, goals, and the future.

The When Circuit: This second circuit goes from the same prefrontal area back into a very ancient part of the brain called the cerebellum, at the very backmost part of your head. The When Circuit is the timing circuit of the brain it coordinates not just how smooth behavior will be and the sequence of behavior, but also the timeliness of your actions and when you do certain things. An improperly functioning When Circuit in a person with ADHD explains why we often have problems with time management.

The Why Circuit: The third circuit also originates from the frontal lobe, going through the central part of the brain to the amygdala the gateway to the limbic system. Its often referred to as the hot circuit because its linked to our emotions its where what we think controls how we feel, and vice versa. Its the final decision maker in all our plans. When thinking about multiple things we could be doing, this is the circuit that eventually chooses among the options based on how we feel about them and their emotional and motivational properties.

Signs There May Be Deficits In Executive Functioning Skills: 12

People with Executive Function Disorder exhibit a wide variety of difficulties with every day tasks. Some common skills affected by EFD include:

  • Not being able to manage time well, difficulty meeting deadlines or goals and determining the amount of time that has passed or is necessary to complete a task
  • Difficulty organizing and planning
  • Trouble switching focus and shifting between activities
  • Not being able to remember details
  • Misplacing and losing possessions, paperwork, etc.
  • Difficulty delaying response or withholding a response
  • Difficulty prioritizing work or responsibilities
  • Difficulty self-monitoring behavior, progress, and emotions

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Executive Functions Has Been Defined As:

  • Organizing, prioritizing and activating for tasks
  • Focusing, sustaining and shifting attention to task
  • Regulating alertness, sustaining effort and processing speed
  • Managing frustration and modulating emotions
  • Utilizing working memory and accessing recall
  • Monitoring and self-regulating action


Barkley, Russell A., Murphy, Kevin R., Fischer, Mariellen . ADHD in Adults: What the Science Says . New York, Guilford Press.

Brown, Thomas E. . Attention Deficit Disorder: The Unfocused Mind in Children and Adults . New Haven, CT, Yale University Press Health and Wellness.

Resources For Executive Functioning And Adhd

“There Are 11 Executive Functioning Skills?!” Q& A Session for ADHD Adults on Executive Dysfuction


  • Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, by Russel Barkley: One of the leading experts in ADHD, Dr. Barkley presents a practical guide with many self-assessment tools and skill-building exercises.
  • More Attention, Less Deficit, by Ari Tuckman: This book is written specifically for individuals who tend to jump around and read in pieces. It reads like a compilation of articles, all with important information from etiology to treatment options. for a sample chapter.


  • is a universal resource for both children and adults who struggle with attention difficulties. Their site includes parent training, workshops, advocacy, and support resources.
  • offers many fantastic articles and resources. Take a look at their ADHD Basics article for an easy-to-understand foundation of common school challenges. You may also wish to check out theirAdults with Learning Disabilities page.

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Executive Functions Adhd: How To Tell The Difference

There is often confusion when it comes to executive functions, ADHD , and how they work in the brain. Executive functions and ADHD have many connections in how they affect people and their performance in life. It can be difficult to distinguish the differences, and many individuals even question, How does ADHD affect executive functioning? Well, to answer that, ADHD symptoms are commonly linked to deficits in executive functions. Now that we know, what are the main differences between executive functioning and ADHD? To start, ADHD is a clinically diagnosed brain disorder while executive dysfunction, or even executive function disorder, is notdespite the name. It is solely a deficit.

Instead, an executive function disorder is described as the inability to use skills to attain goals or complete everyday tasks, while ADHD is mainly centered on focus, impulse control, and holding attention. To elaborate more, individuals with ADHD can have issues with executive functioning, but having an executive functioning disorder does not always mean a person has ADD or ADHD. In understanding more about those living with executive functions ADHD, its necessary to take a look into when they begin and how they develop.

Professional Help For Executive Functioning

If you want to go beyond implementing simple strategies independently, you may want to consider working with a professional.

A speech-language pathologist is the ideal professional to deliver executive function coaching for adults. Speech pathologists are trained to help individuals develop language skills and assist with the social language aspects of executive function, such as initiating interactions, topic maintenance, and ending/wrapping up a conversation.

At Connected Speech Pathology, our speech-language pathologists provide direct, one-on-one coaching to address the concerns you may have. We can teach adults and children how to manage multiple activities, including business projects, preparing for presentations, or even homework, all while still finding some downtime.

There are two primary approaches that we can use for building and restoring executive function skills: Environmental and Individual.

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How To Diagnose Executive Function

Executive function may be diagnosed informally or through a more formal process, including standardized testing. The gold standard for evaluating executive function is through a neuropsychologist.

Children can often get tested through the school system if they are not meeting the academic standards set up by the school system. In addition to diagnosing executive function, a neuropsychologist can rule out other conditions such as ADHD and learning disabilities as contributing factors.

Speech-language pathologists can also provide an evaluation of executive function. An evaluation will consist of clinical observation, clinical intake, an executive function inventory and can also include executive function formal testing. Speech pathologists typically factor in input from the individuals neuropsychologist, psychologist, social worker, or school counselor.

Organization Planning And Time Management

Pin on Executive Function

In order to get everything done that we need to, we have to be able to plan tasks, organize what we need to perform them, and get them done in a reasonable amount of time. Executive dysfunction can inhibit this entire process.

Someone with executive dysfunction might be disorganized, may have difficulty making plans or sticking to them once made, and may not be able to complete tasks in the necessary amount of time.

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Executive Function In Adults

Heres the thing: There is a lot of information out there for kids who are struggling with these areas. However, for most of us, executive functioning skills are still developing well into the adult years.

Executive function in adults is developmental. In fact, executive function skills dont typically develop until the early 20s. Development of executive functioning skills occurs up through the college years , making that transition from the home setting of high-school into a college dorm very difficult for many.

So, for some adults who are challenged in these areas, there can be simply a few accommodations or strategies put into place. Simply using a few set of tools designed to address these needs can allow for improved skills like organization and time management which are then carried over to other areas.

Making changes to executive function in adults can mean looking at the big picture.

Adults need to do adult things, right? Areas of life skills where executive functioning skills impact getting things done include:

  • Obtaining a job
  • Flexibility
  • Self-awareness

For other adults who may have always struggled with seeing the big picture, planning tasks, or staying focused on a task, this is the typical development for that individual. In other words, some adults may be gaining improvements and strengthening the skills theyve got, just at a lower level than another adult. In these cases, strategies and tools can make a difference here, too.

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