Photo Credit: Rifka Schonfeld

Q: My daughter’s teacher asked that we get her evaluated for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). When she was evaluated, the specialist said that she doesn’t have ADHD, but has Executive Function Disorder. Is that like ADHD? Why haven’t I heard of it before?

A: Only in recent years has Executive Function Disorder started getting the attention it deserves. In order to recognize Executive Function Disorder, it is important to understand what executive skills are. In their book, Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents, Peg Dawson and Richard Guare explain:



Executive skills allow us to organize our behavior over time and override immediate demands in favor of longer-term goals. Through the use of these skills we can plan and organize activities, sustain attention, and persist to complete a task. Executive skills enable us to manage our emotions and monitor our thoughts in order to work more efficiently and effectively. Simply stated, these skills help us to regulate our behavior.


Among the individual skills that allow people to self-regulate are:

  • Planning: the ability to create a roadmap to reach a goal. This also includes the ability to focus only on what is important.
  • Organization: the ability to keep track of multiple sets of information and materials.
  • Time management: the ability to understand how much time one has, and to figure out how to divide it in order to meet a goal.
  • Working memory: the ability to hold information in mind even while performing other tasks.
  • Metacognition: the ability to self-monitor and recognize when you are doing something poorly or well.
  • Response inhibition: the ability to think before you speak or act.
  • Sustained attention: the ability to attend to a situation or task in spite of distraction, fatigue or boredom.


Some educators today believe that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder falls into an executive function category. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a common behavioral disorder that affects between 8-10% of school-age children. Boys are three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD. Children who have ADHD have trouble sitting still, focusing on one thing at one time, and attending to details. While their attention seems unfocused, it is multi-focused. Their mind takes in multiple stimuli at once, making it hard to engage in one activity for long periods of time. For this reason, reading through conventional methods can be frustrating.

People who suffer from Executive Function Disorder lack many of the abilities above. This can lead to persistent lateness, impulsive behavior, and the inability to complete any task completely.


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An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at [email protected].