What is Executive Function?

What Parents Should Know about Executive Function and Dysfunction​

Executive Function, or EF, refers to the set of abilities residing in our brain’s frontal lobes that help us set and achieve goals. These skills enable us to plan ahead, control our impulses, prioritize tasks, focus attention, remember instructions, and get started on work. 

All of these are critical to doing well in school, right? The problem is, our frontal lobes often are not fully developed until our mid-20’s, so it’s inevitable that students will encounter academic demands that exceed their current capacities, especially if they have ADHD or other learning differences.

Students with deficits in their executive functioning are often mislabeled as lazy or unmotivated about their schoolwork – but the reality is that most students want to do well. They simply may not know how to do well, though.

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When students struggle with executive dysfunction, they frequently do not complete homework assignments and projects on time, struggle to prioritize academics over gaming and social media, are easily distracted, and rarely study effectively for exams.

With coaching, students with executive dysfunction learn new ways to manage their work and responsibilities – in other words, they are provided with the means and support to succeed.

Without intervention, deficits in executive function often result in poor grades, increased stress and anxiety, and low self-esteem from repeated failures. The good news is that coaching can help reverse a student’s downward spiral and help them achieve their true potential.

The GEL Approach

Built upon evidence-based interventions, the GEL Approach was explicitly designed to remediate executive function deficits and is highly effective in helping high school and college students overcome challenges in planning, time management, prioritization, procrastination, and minimizing distractions.

Fortunately, chronic deficits in executive function are treatable, and many students experience profound positive changes through GEL’s academic and ADHD\EF coaching.

Because the GEL Approach generalizes executive function skills across multiple areas of living, our coaches work with students to benefit their academics and their lives in general.

Here’s how our coaching approach helps:

Students often have complex projects that require multiple steps to complete. Challenges with planning often result in the student being overwhelmed and not knowing where to begin. Our coaches help students learn the process of breaking down complex tasks into easy-to-manage steps.

Individuals with executive function deficits often suffer from time blindness, an inability or difficulty to sense the passage of time.  Time blindness creates problems for obvious reasons, including when students have to account for competing demands for their time.  Our coaches help students develop strategies to increase their awareness of time and explain what effective time management looks like in school and their personal lives. 

Students with executive function deficits struggle with delayed gratification. They tend to prioritize unimportant but preferred activities over important but non-preferred activities. As in many things in life, a balanced approach works best, but what does that approach actually look like, and how should it be presented to a student with executive function deficits? GEL coaches are experts in helping students see the value in prioritizing academics before gaming\YouTube while carving out time to do both.

Studies have repeatedly shown how harmful distractions are to productivity and getting things done.  But what do you do if your brain is literally wired for distractibility?  GEL pioneered a research-based strategy we call The 3-Step. It is highly effective in minimizing distractions and puts attention right where it needs to be when engaging in schoolwork.

Perhaps nothing is more ubiquitous amongst students with executive function deficits than procrastination.  The problem lies in a very strong cognitive pattern that says, “I have plenty of time; I will do it later.”  Unfortunately, “later” rarely, if ever, comes.  GEL has mastered the approach to overcoming procrastination in even the most chronic procrastinators by circumventing the brain’s natural pattern of avoidance.


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