Everyone has moments of inattention and restlessness, but for some people these exist as a constant situation. Adults, as well as children and adolsecents, need to monitor their behavior and cue themselves to pay attention, but some people have significantly more difficulty maintaining their focus.
Executive functioning represents a set of processes that govern how one manages oneself, including mental control and self regulation. The skills necessary for planning and organization, memory, making transitions, setting priorities, and self cueing begin to develop in childhood. As the child grows, so do the expectations for self management throughout the teenage years. Adults are expected to have mastered a degree of mental flexibility, including the ability to set priorities and shift strategies. But adults who remain disorganized, poorly focused, unaware of how much they miss in the environment, often suffer professionally and personally.
Can individuals who have difficulty with executive functioning become more alert to their behavior and improve these skills? Self-monitoring strategies and cueing for attentional gaps can be learned by children and adults. Luckily, for teenagers and adults, electronic devices and planners can assist in memory and organization. But these external tools don’t help with focus and attention. While some individuals treat their attentional problems with medication, ultimately the responsibility for executive functioning remains a conscious activity.
A professional who specializes in cognitive training can develop a set of strategies tailored to an individual to improve executive functioning. It takes active thinking to modify one behavior at all ages. But it’s a worthwhile effort that can create academic, professional and personal success.
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