The answer to this question is simple – all students can benefit from input across childhood and adolescence. Childhood and adolescence present an opportunity to embed strong skills early on that are the foundation for success in later life (Dawson and Guare, 2009).
Studies have shown that executive skills keep developing through adolescence until they fully mature in early adulthood (Best et al., 2009). During the early years, there is particularly rapid developmental change, but much of the development of executive skills happens gradually over time, as is demonstrated by studies that show that children perform better on executive function tasks beyond early childhood (Miller and Best, 2010).
Supporting children to practice and strengthen their executive skills during childhood can prevent them from facing challenges later in their school careers when they are required to be independent learners and to manage their own workload. For some students, it is not until they are in secondary school when more demands are placed on their executive functions that it becomes evident that they require extra support.
All students can benefit from our executive skills workshops that help children to understand how their brains work, how it effects their learning and behaviour and how they can use this information to revise, complete homework and manage everyday life. However, there are some groups of students for whom more intensive support to develop good executive skills can be critical in helping them to reach their potential.
These children and young people with executive skills challenges are often bright and able, but just can’t manage their daily lives. These children are often seen as lazy and unmotivated and adults become increasingly frustrated by their apparent difficulty in doing the ‘basic things’ in life. Problems with task initiation, time management, planning and organisation, shifting and task monitoring can have a significant impact both academically and behaviourally. The result can be a young person who is isolated from adults around them and achieving well below their potential in school.
There is also a well-established link between poverty and EF deficits, which can translate into students experiencing the challenges described above and displaying behavioural issues linked to the executive function inhibitory control. Children from low socio-economic status backgrounds can benefit from additional support to strengthen their EF skills.
Best JR, Miller PH, Jones LL. Executive functions after age 5: Changes and correlates. Developmental Review. 2009;29:180–200.
Best, J. R., & Miller, P. H. (2010). A Developmental Perspective on Executive Function. Child Development, 81(6), 1641–1660. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01499.x
P. Dawson & R. Guare. (2009). Smart But Scattered: The Revolutionary “Executive Skills” Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential. New York: The Guildford Press