Executive Function Skills and Cognitive Training


Executive functioning represents a set of processes that govern how one manages oneself and one’s resources to achieve a goal. These are essential neurological and behavioral skills that impact on mental control and self-regulation. They involve:

  • Planning and organization
  • Working memory
  • Setting priorities
  • Making transitions
  • Mental flexibility and shifting strategies
  • Self monitoring
  • Self modification


Lack of executive function development in children can result in impulsiveness, restlessness, inattention in school as well as at home. Poor executive function skills affect the development of reading and listening skills as well as behavior in school.

Intervention for executive function weakness at a young age can be critical for academic and personal success.


Untreated difficulties with executive function, whether developmental or related to injury or illness, can impact on school performance as well as personal behavior. Difficulties in writing are frequently linked to poor planning and organization skills, regardless of intelligence. Academic success in high school and college requires strong executive function skills.


A number of adults, even professionals in the workplace, find their ability to achieve success limited by disorganization, impulsiveness, limited mental flexibility, and lack of self monitoring. Career advancement remains the most common reason for cognitive training to improve executive functioning.

Adults who sustain head trauma, tumor, stroke or other neurological disease often experience a decrease of executive function skills. Research has shown that treatment for these difficulties through cognitive training can be a highly effective process that allows individuals to return to the workplace and resume normal lives.

Elderly men and women who develop neurological disease such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative illnesses may show a decline in executive functioning, regardless of their past intellectual capabilities. Cognitive training allows these individuals to maintain their skills for as long as possible and their dignity.

Why seek treatment from a speech-language pathologist?
While neuropsychologists, psychologists and neurologists often diagnose executive function disorders for children and adults, treatment by a speech-language pathologist remains the most frequent and effective referral.

The American Speech and Hearing Association, the accreditation organization for the profession, includes treatment for cognitive dysfunction within the scope of practice for speech-language pathology.