Strategies for Managing Executive Function Disorder
By Gina Bellisario
Does your student procrastinate often? Misplace materials for school? Have multiple late assignments? These
may be signs of a condition called executive function disorder (EFD). EFD inhibits one’s executive functioning
skills, which include the ability to: (1) organize information; and (2) regulate behavior in order to appropriately
respond to that information.
Consider the following scenario as an illustration:
Student A and Student B need to prepare for a science quiz tomorrow. Student A demonstrates effective
executive functioning skills: she creates a study guide to organize vocabulary words and concepts that will be
tested. She also takes time to review the guide, putting her cell phone and other potential distractions away.
She ultimately does well on the quiz.
Student B, on the other hand, shows signs of EFD: she attempts to organize key information, but trying to
categorize everything makes her feel overwhelmed. Frustrated, she abandons her study materials and,
instead, spends time texting friends and scrolling through social media. The next day, she is unprepared for the
quiz and performs poorly.
In this scenario, EFD has led to a low assessment score, but it can also have other unwanted outcomes. If a
student struggles with EFD, her self-worth may become negatively affected. She may even develop feelings of
apathy towards school. However, there are several strategies that can help students manage this disorder and
Strategy #1: Use an Assignment Notebook
During a typical day of high school, students are given multiple assignments, each with a different due date.
Students would benefit from recording their assignments in a notebook so that they do not forget about
required work. They should aim to fill out the notebook every day for each subject. If they have no homework
or have completed an assignment, they should make note of it in the notebook as a visual reminder.
Strategy #2: Follow a Consistent Routine
Students who have difficulty with completing tasks can also benefit from following a routine that is consistent.
For example, every day after school, a student might get started on homework after eating a snack. If the
student commits herself to this routine, rather than putting off her work until much later, she is more likely to
finish her assignments in a timely manner and avoid the pitfalls of procrastination.
Strategy #3: Work in a Distraction-Free Zone
Students with EFD may also have attention deficit disorder (ADD), which can affect how well they are able to
concentrate on the task at hand. To help themselves stay focused, students should remove any distractions
from their workspaces. Oftentimes, students work at a computer, which may be a distraction itself. If a student
is tempted to play computer games, she can disconnect from the Internet and work offline until all homework
has been completed.
Strategy #4: Reward Yourself
Taking on an assignment can be hard work while also navigating EFD. Students should reward their diligence.
For example, if a student sets a goal of reading a novel for 30 minutes without taking a break, that student can
reward herself when she has met her goal. A reward might be a short break to listen to music, go for a walk, or
talk to a friend. Rewards can give students much-needed encouragement and motivation to keep moving
Managing executive function disorder can be challenging. It can feel tiresome and daunting. However, by using
strategies like these and others, students can stay on top of their workload, ensuring they achieve success at
school and beyond.
Bhandari, Smitha. “Executive Function Disorder & Executive Functioning Skills.” WebMD, WebMD, 25 Mar.
DiTullio, Gina. “Helping Students Develop Executive Function Skills.” Edutopia, George Lucas Educational
Foundation, 9 Nov. 2018, www.edutopia.org/article/helping-students-develop-executive-function-skills.
Ehmke, Rachel. “Help for Executive Functions.” Child Mind Institute, 12 Dec. 2018,