Executive Function Disorder: Diagnosis and Treatment Services

The brain is a complex organ in the human body, contributing to many different aspects of our mental and physical makeup. If something isn’t functioning properly within the brain, you may struggle with certain tasks or activities in your daily life. One example is executive function disorder, which impacts a number of people and makes it difficult for them to work toward goals and achieve success. At NeuroHealth Arlington Heights, you can be tested for executive function disorder as well as determine the next steps if you do struggle with this disorder.

What Is Executive Function Disorder?

Young Boy with Executive Function Disorder Flipping Through Papers in Three-Ring Binder at School

Image via Flickr by woodleywonderworks.

Executive function skills enable people to focus their attention, manage multiple tasks, plan, and remember instructions. These skills are split into two main groups, which are regulation and organization. Regulation refers to the ability to take your surroundings into account and alter your behavior or actions in response to the surroundings. Organization refers to your ability to gather information and evaluate and structure it.

A lack of these skills, known as executive function disorder or executive dysfunction, makes it more difficult to plan ahead, solve problems, and manage your time. Both adults and children can be affected by this disorder, although it’s particularly common in those with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In fact, according to ADDitude, an online magazine focused on ADHD, up to 90% of children with ADHD struggle with executive function skills.

Executive function disorder can make it difficult to complete a wide range of tasks related to work and school as well as maintain positive and healthy relationships. If you struggle with this disorder, you may find it hard to switch your focus, remember details, multitask, manage your time, or complete tasks based on previous experience.

What Causes Executive Function Disorder?

Executive function disorder doesn’t have one single cause. A person could be born with poor executive function skills, although this usually doesn’t become apparent until they reach an age where certain abilities are expected of them. Certain other disorders of the brain can also impact executive function skills, including learning disabilities, ADD, ADHD, and depression. Physical injuries may also cause a decline in these skills, such as strokes and traumatic brain injuries, as well as Alzheimer’s disease.

Executive Function Disorder Symptoms

Since executive function disorder is common in those under the age of 18, it’s helpful to understand some of the most common executive function disorder symptoms in children to assess whether you or someone you love may be dealing with it. Children often have trouble organizing their materials, particularly in a learning atmosphere. They might misplace their homework or schoolbooks. Another symptom is difficulty with setting and keeping schedules. Keeping an orderly bedroom or managing a daily chore chart could be a struggle.

Additional symptoms of executive dysfunction in children include getting stuck on one solution to a problem, rather than coming up with additional ideas, getting distracted easily, being disruptive in class, and struggling with instructions that have multiple steps. When dealing with this disorder, children may get upset when things don’t go their way, have trouble finishing a task, or struggle with procrastination, especially on tasks they don’t enjoy, such as homework or chores.

In children, the signs of executive function disorder often become most pronounced in the transition from elementary school to junior high or middle school, or middle school to high school. During this period in the educational process, the expectations and workload tend to increase. When a child or teen struggles with the ability to complete a task or achieve a goal, the struggle becomes more pronounced during this period.

In adults, the symptoms of executive function disorder are similar, although they may misplace important items, such as keys, wallets, and cell phones. Adults with this disorder may also have a hard time keeping their living spaces clean and organized. Since executive functioning refers to the mental and cognitive abilities that allow individuals to engage in actions that direct them to achieve goals, anything relating to setting and attaining goals becomes more difficult.

Executive Function Disorder Treatment

Before treating executive function disorder, the professionals at NeuroHealth Arlington Heights will perform a neuropsychological test, which is available to people of all ages. It’s important to note that we don’t administer the exact same test to everyone who presents with certain symptoms or concerns. Instead, we work with each patient individually to understand their presenting issues and create a plan that works. We also don’t believe in using curriculum-based measures when conducting assessments. Our team members take a more deductive approach to assessment, customizing the test to the individual needs. We can also become your advocate when it comes to managing school-related expectations.

After diagnosing the disorder, we can then begin working with you or your child to come up with a plan to treat executive function issues. One of the most common treatment options is using therapists and tutors to identify problem areas and figure out how to most effectively work around them. The professionals involved in this type of treatment might include occupational therapists, reading tutors, psychologists, and speech therapists.

Another treatment approach is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which is often used in conjunction with medication to treat other conditions, such as ADD or ADHD. This approach tends to be more successful with older children and adolescents, as younger children have trouble altering their behavior too drastically.

It’s also helpful to redesign the environment in which the affected individual studies, learns, or works. This process may involve external memory tools, such as sticky notes, symbols, cards, or lists, which help them stay on task and focused. In children, external motivation may also help, such as a points system or a report card.

At NeuroHealth Arlington Heights, our goal is to help those struggling with executive function disorder so they can achieve their goals and live happy, successful lives. We can provide testing, treatment, and other resources designed to benefit those who deal with this disorder and want to improve their abilities.

Get the help you deserve by contacting us today. We will ensure your testing, diagnosis, and treatment services move smoothly.