What is Executive Functioning?

Do you often plan for an upcoming trip?

Pay attention to traffic or to what a waiter is saying?

Find yourself multitasking when watching your children and making dinner?

Or bite your tongue when someone or something angers you?


Chances are you have and have done it quite easily. That is your executive functioning skills at work. These are skills that are held in the frontal lobe or our brain and are commonly impacted in someone with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Daily activities that we often take for granted can become incredibly challenging and frustrating for someone with a TBI. 

Common deficits include;

  • Attention
  • Working Memory
  • Impulse Control
  • Ability to self regulate emotions
  • Problem Solving
  • Organization
  • Planning

These are skills that are essential for our daily life tasks, making decisions, and engaging in complex, higher level activities. Depending on the severity of the injury, which is commonly caused from an external force or blow to the head, treatment for these can differ. Some treatments focus on the remediation of the skill, where others target implementing compensatory strategies such as making lists, using timers/alarms, or using calendars. 

When we stop and think about it, we use strategies like this everyday. Alarms are used to wake us up, timers are used when we prepare meals in the oven. We use schedules and planners everyday to track our days, ensure we are on time for meetings, and we make lists to go to the store. Chances are you have a self regulation strategy when you are frustrated or angry, such as going for a walk or listening to a preferred song.

We often do these things without thinking, just a part of our normal, everyday lives. When someone is injured, these become vital to their functioning and can be challenging to use or implement, due to the nature of the injury. This can impact independence in multiple areas of life including home, work, and social avenues.That is where therapy can be quite beneficial. 

Occupational therapy (OT) can be used to focus on planning and organization such as use of calendars or lists, Speech Language Therapy (SLP) can be used to help restore memory or implement memory strategies, and Psychology can be used to implement coping and regulation strategies.

If you find yourself having challenges with the aforementioned areas, please do not hesitate to reach out to your doctor to request an evaluation from an OT, SLP, or Psychologist to determine the best course of action in order to help maintain your independence.