Executive function pertains to our brain and its ability to analyze, plan, organize, schedule and accomplish tasks. When the brain fails to perform the above operations owing to some damage or underdevelopment, the person suffers from executive function disorder (EFD).
The capability for executive function begins at the age of two and it is over when the person reaches 30 years. People affected by executive function disorder suffer 30 – 40% retardation in achieving full development. Their brain is more focused on attainment of short term goals instead of long term ones.
The tendency to procrastinate, seeking immediate relief by avoiding responsibility to do a task, becomes the priority. Even if not doing the task now ends in punishment, it is acceptable since it is not being experienced now. Executive function disorder is recognized by typical behaviors like difficulty in learning and getting forgetful. However, this type of disorder can be corrected and natural remedies exist to answer the issues arising from it.
What is executive functioning?
It is a significant part of our memory known as working memory. This is quite different from short-term and long-term memory. Working memory has a limited capacity to hold information that is relevant only for the present working moment.
Short-term and long-term memory can hold information for days, weeks, years and decades. Simply put, information holding capacity of working memory can be compared to the ability of your hands in holding things. Beyond a certain capacity, you will drop things. For example, if you have an important thing to remember and suddenly another lesser important information comes in, you forget the important one. Considering the limited capacity of working memory, you need to focus on essential information, ignoring the irrelevant ones.
Symptoms of executive function disorder (EFD):
Executive function disorder in a person apparently shows up when we are still at a tender age. Today’s children live in a complex and competitive world. Technology, internet, education system and failure to cope with peers put the mind under stress. Making things worse, a decline in time spent in outdoor games aggravates the situation. Consequently, children start showing behavioral peculiarities that could be symptoms of this disorder like:
- Finds it hard to be organized.
- Finds difficulty in time management.
- Fails to perform well at school.
- Struggles with articulation and constructing sentences in a proper sequence and logic.
- Forgetting homework.
- Cannot solve problems that have multiple steps.
- Losing things and forgetting personal belongings.
- Fails to concentrate and focus.
- Fails to recall lessons learned.
- Fails to comprehend the gist of a lesson.
- Struggles a lot to prioritize tasks.
- Devoid of fluency in speech.
- Finds it difficult to divert from one activity to another.
- Have issues with working memory.
Diagnosis of executive function disorder:
A typical appraisal on EFD would start with holding tests for the candidate, eliminating chances of other types of disorders showing similar manifestations. In this connection, a written assessment known as the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) is conducted.
Parents, teachers and kids being examined need to be involved to complete the evaluation of executive function. 86 questions are structured and shot at the kid to precisely locate areas of difficulty. Other types of evaluations can be:
- Conners 3: A rating based upon the parent, teacher and the kid being evaluated.
- For adult diagnosis, Barkley Deficit in Executive Functioning Scale (BDEFS) exists to assess executive function disorder, employing self and other results.
Comprehensive executive function inventory (CEFI):
It evaluates a person to a group benchmark using parent, teacher and self-report appraisal. Evaluators may carry out an examination testing cleverness potential of the candidate and his actual functioning for a comparison.
Candidate with suspected EFD may be interviewed. Diagnosis is normally carried out when there is an abrupt jump in syllabus content – typically in 6th or 9th grade. Academic demand mounts and how far the candidate can handle the change is testing time for executive function capabilities.
The issues concerning executive function may be addressed by natural remedial measures that involve training the mind. Here we go with a plan of action that prepares the mind for analysis, planning and organizing tasks and their fruitful delivery:
- Review the task in hand and take a step by step perspective to perform it.
- Depend on visual help for devising a strategy and get your thought process in order.
- Employ gadgets like computer or watches set on alarm to monitor if the tasks are completed within a deadline.
- Keep space for changes in activities.
- Prepare schedules and explore them repeatedly if anything had gone amiss.
- Keep provisions for verbal and black and white directives.
- For having a thorough grip on time, prepare checklists with approximations for finishing each task.
- Lengthy tasks should be broken into smaller fractions to have intense concentration on parts. When the parts are well accomplished, the whole must look good enough.
- Use your calendar to monitor long projects. This will help you be on time schedule.
- Each assignment should be tagged with expected dates of completion.
- Different activities should be localized in separate workspaces with all required inputs.
- Take time for periodical cleaning of work space or else it will look clumsy and disorganized.
- All that you have done should be assessed by an experienced eye. A teacher or an experienced supervisor would fit in the role.
- Professional executive function coaches are available for guidance and render your plans effective. Take their help.
- Use realistic sub-targets along with the overall task objective. Expectations and the intensity of efforts you are giving should meet at a congruent point.
- Prior to moving on to another task, be sure that you have efficiently finished the sub-goals.
- Use contracts for phase-wise work completion.
Other programs related to EFD treatment:
Considering self-monitoring, working memory and task monitor facets of executive function, the following programs would be useful:
- Apply plans such as distraction -inhibiting execution desires to insulate one intention from another. You may also try to handle unwelcome negative moods emerging from tasks which you are reluctant to do.
- Concentrate on inviting a feel-good sensation by cultivating a consciousness of the process and its impact on accomplishment of a task that we never liked.
The best treatment for EFD:
The best treatment for improving executive function comes from brain training exercises. Brain games and puzzles solved on a regular basis alter the brain structure. They will refresh the neural network and help sustain and develop executive function. Here are a few of them:
- Teaching yourself something novel and talking to one’s own self improves executive function.
- Involve in sports. A game of football or a round of chess can work wonders.
- Employ a dictionary. You will require a pen, paper and a dictionary. Search for words representing emotions like fury, sorrow, guilt, mirth, embarrassment and disgust. Look for definitions and recall a time when those emotions visited your mind.
- Make a habit of making lists. This habit that jots down regular chores that you need to deliver is perhaps the best exercise to improve executive function.
- This is a wonderful window to rejuvenate your brain and improves executive function. More difficult the music, the better it is for your grey matter.
- Video games. Playing video games is not only an entertaining outlet. It improves your executive function as well. It improves your time reaction and discriminatory focus.
- Taking part in plays and choreography can help. Rehearsing lines by actors helps improve their concentration and working memory.
Executive dysfunction anxiety:
Studies show that executive dysfunction anxiety arises from having far lesser space in working memory than what is normal. It leads to executive control deficit. Anxiety impacts a specific area of executive function called attention control.
People who are hyper anxious have their brain flooded with too much information that can be fitted into lower working memory space. Lack of efficient and flexible data management gives rise to anxiety.