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11 Important Executive Skills For Kids

We are all familiar with the academic demands at school – reading, writing, and math, but did you know that executive skills are linked to overall cognitive functioning?

Did you know that these skills develop as your child’s brain develops? Executive skills support all of our daily activities at home, at school, and in the community. They help us to pay attention and remember information, to solve problems, to plan and organize ideas and belongings, and to manage our emotions.

In the Smart but Scattered series of resources, Peg Dawson and Richard Guare identify the following executive skills.

Important Executive Skills for Kids

  1. Response inhibition
  2. Working memory
  3. Emotional control
  4. Sustained attention
  5. Task initiation
  6. Planning and prioritization
  7. Organization
  8. Time management
  9. Goal-directed persistence
  10. Cognitive flexibility
  11. Metacognition


While some kids have a higher risk for executive skills challenges than others, it’s important to know a lot of kids struggle with these skills.

These students may become overwhelmed with tasks that have multiple steps for completion and may appear to lack initiative or be impulsive. They may be inflexible in their thinking, or be disorganized, or have problems planning and prioritizing homework and studying. It is important that these students learn about their strengths and weaknesses so that they can develop strategies to help in areas where they struggle.

Is my child struggling?

For example, a student who has difficulty completing a multi-step homework assignment may benefit from a checklist to help with breaking the task into manageable parts and sequencing the steps for completion. Other students might need help organizing their desk or workspace, while others may need help to manage their emotions and to regulate behavior based on the task at hand.

Although executive skills do not fully develop until around the age of 25, our children and teens are often expected to complete complex tasks independently. In order to help them become the most successful students they can be, we need to provide supports and training to foster these emerging executive skills.

If you have concerns about your child’s executive skills, contact us about the Excel: Executive Skills for Learning and Life program. Our speech-language pathologists can provide an individualized executive skills program to facilitate improved functioning at home, at school, and in the community.

Andrea Jennings, M.Cl.Sc., Reg. CASLPO
Elizabeth Skirving, M.S., M.Ed., Reg. CASLPO
Speech-Language Pathologists
Fern Speech and Language Services


Questions? Comments? Contact us today!

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