Executive Functions and ADD/ADHD

What are Executive Functions, and how can they be treated?

The Executive Functions are part of the brain’s ‘Control Center’ that is in charge of initiating and controlling all other cognitive skills.

Your Executive Functions help connect between past experiences, present behavior and future planning. Executive functions enable us to perform tasks such as planning, organization, decision making, problem solving, attention to detail, remembering, time management, spatial scanning, inhibition and self-control, etc.

The CEO of a company is someone who engages in planning how to best use the company’s resources. The CEO decides what the company’s priorities are and the direction in which the company is headed. If there are disagreements and conflicting requirements from different departments, it is the CEO who decides what will be the course of action. In a nutshell, the CEO’s responsibility is to see the ‘big picture’ and plan future actions accordingly.
The Frontal lobes act as the CEO of the brain.

The Frontal Lobes of the brain are where the Executive Functions activity of the brain take place. It is where resources are allocated for the performance of different functions and helps us assess many options when having to make a decision.

For example, when an adult or a child wake up in the morning, both have to perform a series of tasks after waking up, one for getting ready to go to work and the other for school. These tasks involve washing up, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, eating, organizing documentation for work or a schoolbag, making sure that items such as exercise books or car keys are not forgotten.

People who have difficulties with their Executive Functions have a very hard time deciding on the order in which to perform sequential tasks. Deciding what should be done first isn’t easy and that’s why decision making in such instances is a very long process. Many people with Frontal Lobe deficiencies report that time is slipping away and they don’t manage to get things done.

The behavior of those with ADD/ADHD symptoms is usually disorganized and they are unable to maintain long term thinking with a future, goal driven outlook. As a result, problems arise in the day to day functioning as well as in social interactions. Tasks that are considered relatively simple such as cooperation, accepting someone else’s behavior, patience and impulse control are key to mutually respectful relationships.

In light of the above, outside intervention is required and the creation of an environment that accepts and understands these difficulties and has the tools to improve Executive Functions.

In the CHADD conference that was held in in November 2011 in Orlando, USA, a number of important speakers focused on Executive Functions, amongst them, the famous Russell Barkley.

In his lecture, Dr. Barkley (who is well known for his support for prescribing medication to ADHD patients) talked about the fact that medication does not in any way help to improve Executive Function difficulties!

He emphasized that medication treatment should be combined with cognitive treatment of ADHD.

Other lecturers agreed with his claim and there seems to be a new growing movement that calls for ADHD treatment professionals to combine cognitive treatment methods and not only rely on medication.

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