Organization & Homework Problems – Executive Function Issues?

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A clinical psychologist diagnosed my child with an executive functioning disorder.  The school team says he is not eligible for special education.  Is this true?

The term “executive functioning” describes skills that fall into two broad areas: planning/organizing and regulating behavior.

Executive functioning is not a disability.

If your child has executive functioning deficits, he may be eligible for special education if he has a qualifying disability – possibly a specific learning disability or other health impairment.

But your child must meet two criteria to be eligible for special ed and an IEP.

  1. he must have a qualifying disability, and because of the disability,
  2. he must need special ed

Executive Functioning Skills

Executive functioning skills allow your child to:

  • pay attention and remember details
  • plan ahead and manage time
  • think about different ways to solve problems
  • keep track of more than one thing at once
  • compare, contrast, and organize new information
  • evaluate ideas and reflect on his work
  • get organized and stay organized
  • wait to speak until called upon

If your child has a learning disability, attention deficit disorder, or a developmental disability, he is likely to have weaknesses in executive functioning skills.

Assessment of Skills

Executive functioning skills should be assessed as part of a comprehensive evaluation.

Cognitive tests, including the Wechsler Intelligence Scales, measure working memory and processing speed.

Questionnaires and rating scales ask teachers and parents about the child’s behavior at home and in school.

For more information about Evaluations for Learning Disabilities and ADHD see Chapter 10 in Wrightslaw: All About Tests and Assessments, 2nd Edition.

Homework Challenges and the New School Year by Marcie Lipsitt

Helping Children with Executive Functioning Problems Turn in Their Homework

  1. My child has high functioning ASD, Anxiety, ADD and executive functions deficits. He has not made progress in executive functions or social skills even though the progress reports are stating otherwise. He has missed over 40 days of school last year due to anxiety. He is still struggling and the neuropsych suggest a residential school. He is currently 18 and in his senior year. The school is claiming mental health issues as he has experienced with alcohol due to anxiety. Is anxiety considered a disability? How can I get him Residential placement with students like him. I think the majority of his anxiety stems from the fact that he knows he is different and has no friends.

    • Pam, there are several points that you make. The mental health piece combined with the possible substance abuse issue may open the door wider for residential placement as well as other services. I think the mental health piece may need a level of treatment and call
      2-1-1 in your state for options or NAMI. I totally understand when you mention you want him placed with students “like him.” I agree that is important but if educators are suggesting mental health treatment and/or mental health issues, look at the options and you may connect with other advocacy groups.

    • Anxiety is a disability and you should ask for a re-eligibility to add Emotional Behavioral Disorder as a category which would open more doors for services. Only caveat is that since your son is 18, he will have to sign the consent for evaluation unless you have been granted guardianship through the courts.

  2. Is a child with this type of disability aloud a modification under the Wrights law to try out for an extra curricular activity at school? Ex; cheerleading, colorguard, Pom poms (dance)

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