According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder affects over 6 million school-aged children and youth in the United States, impacting their ability to reason, learn, and control emotions. For many students, symptoms persist beyond childhood, causing difficulties later in life. However, early diagnosis and intervention can help improve outcomes.
This guide can help you learn more about how ADHD impacts executive function in children and best practices for identifying deficiencies to begin early interventions.
Executive Function Explained
Executive function is an umbrella term for the processes that govern how people behave, think, and feel. It comprises four main areas: set-shifting, inhibitory control, and verbal and visual working memory. Combined, these allow individuals to process information, visualize outcomes, and shift between different tasks or stimuli to:
- Focus attention
- Respond to new situations
- Process emotions
- Solve problems
- Organize information
Because facets of executive function work cooperatively, tasks such as learning and maintaining appropriate behavior are affected when one is compromised.
How ADHD Affects Executive Function in Children and Adolescents
Children and teens with ADHD have neurodevelopmental differences compared to their peers. They may have trouble focusing their attention, act impulsively, or appear hyperactive. Routine assessments designed to detect learning and emotional functioning can identify these differences.
ADHD affects youth differently based on several factors. However, research shows that students often have at least one aspect of executive function impacted. The most commonly affected area is working memory.
Your brain uses working memory as a short-term storage tool housing information for quick recall. Children and adolescents with ADHD often display delayed development of this function, which can result in:
- Difficulties with language acquisition
- Trouble using reasoning to solve problems
- Poor reading comprehension skills
- Slowed learning speed
- Problems managing classroom activities, such as taking notes, following instructions, and organizing information
Furthermore, ADHD may contribute to an impaired inability to identify and manage emotions contributing to impulsive behaviors commonly seen in youth.
ADHD Assessments To Identify Difficulties With Executive Function
Routine assessments are an effective tool for the early identification of learning disorders and neurological conditions, such as ADHD, that often contribute to them. The Connors, Third Edition (Connors 3) tests for ADHD and associated emotional, behavioral, and learning difficulties. It offers a more comprehensive evaluation of ADHD and co-occurring conditions than other tests, allowing educators to pinpoint underlying conditions and how they affect students’ success.
Professional Assessments To Identify ADHD and Executive Function
Early identification of conditions such as ADHD that can contribute to deficiencies in executive function is critical. It allows for appropriate interventions that support each student’s ability to learn. Visit WPS to learn more about how you can help students using professional, evidence-based assessments to identify ADHD and co-occurring conditions.
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