Executive Function

Most high school and home environments are highly structured.  Young adults face several challenges when they transition into the less structured workforce or an independent living situation.  However, many of their challenges can be reduced by improving their executive function skills.

Executive function refers to a group of skills related to the coordinated cognitive processes that help people manage themselves, make decisions, and accomplish goals.  Executive function deficits can manifest in various ways.   Executive function deficits can result in students having trouble with: self-regulation, time management, organizational skills, and their ability to work well with a team.

Fortunately, technology can assist users in improving many aspects of these executive function deficits.  A digital calendar and/or a digital task list can improve a student’s time management abilities.  If a student has issues with self regulation, the student can choose from several apps, many of which are free, that can help them monitor their own behavior.  If a student or an employee needs to be supervised from a distance, there are several platforms as well as applications that allow for managers and care givers to observe when needed.

Using technology to improve executive function requires a multi-step approach.  First, the transition team must find the right assistive technology for the user.  But, part of the assistive technology assessment is determining the student’s functionality and technology aptitude. But almost as important, is the student interest in the assistive technology itself.  If interest in a device is high, the student’s ability to use the device will be enhanced through repetitive use, which leads to improved functionality.

Lastly, whichever technology has been selected, the user needs to be adequately trained and the technology must stay in proper working condition. In innumerable schools around the country, closets are bursting with abandoned assistive and educational technology. Likewise, homes are filled with drawers of old cell phones, cabinets of broken or used laptops, and shelves of abandoned communication systems. If the individual for whom the technology was intended never was interested in its use or loses interest quickly, the work and money going into selecting the solution was wasted.

Click here for more information on improving executive function as well as Technology for Transition and Postsecondary Success.