Executive compliance

When the phrase “executive function” is used in reference to school children, it usually means there’s been a failure to carry out tasks related to assignments – such things as keeping papers in order.  Conclusions are drawn about kids’ ability to execute. In my capacity as a coach and tutor I’m often asked to help kids address difficulties with executive function. And I have lots of strategies for improving it.

But before I offer any such strategies to a child, I need to know whether there’s actually a lack of executive function or a lack of executive compliance.  It’s true that sometimes kids don’t perform tasks they might otherwise perform because they can’t figure out how.  But sometimes it’s because they’re choosing not to perform them, for one reason or another.

There are actions to take in either case, but they’re very different actions. It’s no use offering a child strategies for executing tasks she could execute but just isn’t executing.  There are other things to attend to and address in that case that will be a better use of energy and resources.  On the other hand, a child who’s actually struggling to execute and is looking for support in doing so will be available for receiving any coaching an adult or peer might offer.

(See also: Help Unwanted)