Improving Executive Functioning Skills

Executive function—the set of mental skills related to working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control—may be slower to develop for children with autism. Executive functioning skill deficits can make it harder to focus, follow directions, learn, and control emotions. ABA therapy uses a range of techniques to improve executive functioning skills in children with autism depending on the unique needs and goals laid out in each client’s individualized treatment plan.

Executive Functioning Skills

What is Executive Functioning?

The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University describes executive functioning as “mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully.” They use the analogy that, just as an air traffic control system at a busy airport safely manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses. Where these skills may come naturally to individuals without autism, it is typically a concept that must be trained for children with autism.

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How Does ABA Therapy Improve Executive Functioning Skills?

ABA therapy increases executive functioning skills for children with autism by developing individualized treatment procedures that focus on teaching and improving several life skills. These include:

  • Organizing
  • Planning
  • Working memory
  • Paying attention
  • Initiation
  • Flexibility

Because executive functioning encompasses everything an individual may do to manage day to day tasks and behavior, it is extremely important to teach these skills to children with autism.

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