Bergen County Sport Psychologist

This is a resource for parents struggling to understand some of the trends associated with boosting academic performance.

Over the past decade there has been an abundance of literature focusing on executive functioning and children. Executive functioning is a broad term used to define a cluster of cognitive processes such as : the ability to maintain and shift attention, to organize information, to think flexibly, to inhibit impulses and to reason abstractly. These skills are associated with a region of the brain called the frontal lobe/pre-frontal cortex. However, the frontal lobe is not fully developed until the second decade of life. We need to be able to to distinguish between an executive functioning deficit, developmental (age) appropriate executive functioning skills and excessive internal/external demands being placed on our children for academic performance. To assess the difference, I ask the question, “How are these skills,or lack thereof,  interfering with a child’s functioning in their everyday life?”.

In the cited article article,The Science of Getting Kids Organized, Robin Jacob states “While there may be a connection between executive functioning skills and academic achievement, the studies did not show that working on those skills leads to achievement”.

The take away – While executive functioning is necessary for achievement, it does not lead to achievement.

My thoughts:

  • Use the KISS Method (Keep it Simple).  Sometimes using tutor is sufficient to achieve desired results. Great tutors and teachers instill learning strategies that can lead to success with a given task.
  • Understand that executive functioning deficits are usually associated with learning disabilities, cognitive decline, traumatic brain injury and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • A thorough evaluation by a  psychologist can evaluate the cognitive processes associated with executive functioning deficits.
  • True executive functioning deficits will manifest in all areas of life, not just academic areas.

Original NPR Article