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What Executive Functioning Skills Should I/We Work On?

At a Glance

In this post, we will be focusing on a self-assessment for assisting autistic students in identifying executive functioning skills they want to practice.

Each executive functioning skill will be covered along with common needs under each of these categories.

We have included a list of questions to consider whether you are an autistic self-advocate or supporting autistic students.

Welcome back to our Executive Functioning Series - in this part we will be focusing on a self-assessment for assisting autistic students in identifying executive functioning skills they want to practice. 


One challenge of working on executive functioning is that different people will feel different levels of comfort with the various skills that make up executive functioning. 


If you or an autistic person you are supporting are having trouble identifying what executive functioning skills are worth working on, this self-assessment can be a helpful starting point!


The purpose of this self-assessment is to identify areas in your executive functioning where there is something you or the autistic person/people you are supporting feel would be productive to work on. 


It could be a skill that leads to a lot of challenges or it could be something you are already pretty good at and you just want to get even better! 


The aim of this exercise is to identify areas where there are tangible perceived benefits to improving. Bear in mind that building up our skills can also involve identifying tools or accommodations that help make those tasks easier! 


If you want a handy visual guide, the categories of executive functioning skills we are using here match the ones on this free downloadable poster.


One thing to bear in mind about this self-assessment is that it’s meant to get you thinking about which of these skills are most impactful in your ability to complete your day-to-day tasks, and it won’t directly state which skill you most need to work on. 


Rather our hope is they serve as a guidepost for figuring out which executive functioning skills feel most applicable to your day-to-day schedule. If future parts of this series we will continue to talk about different ways of working on specific executive functioning skills. So let’s dive in!

The Self Assessment

1. Working Memory

  • Do you find yourself being frequently reminded you need to complete a certain task?
  • How often if at all do you miss important steps when working on complicated tasks?

2. Adaptable Thinking

  • How do you adjust when plans change and how comfortable do you feel about adjusting?
  • Do you feel confident in your ability to overcome unexpected challenges when working on projects that are important to you?
  • Do you feel comfortable coming up with new strategies when your first strategy doesn’t go as planned?

3. Self-Regulation

  • When you are working on something how do you feel when an unexpected problem occurs?
  • Have you ever had trouble adjusting to a setback while working on a project? If so, what happened?
  • What are some ways you like to get back on the right track after a mistake?

4. Self-Monitoring

  • How do you know when a project you are working on is going well?
  • How do you know when a project you are working on is going poorly?
  • How do you evaluate your own performance on a project after it is done?
  • Do you ever designate times to check in with yourself during tasks to think about how things are going and if you need to adjust at all?

5. Time Management

  • How do you feel about your ability to complete specific tasks within a designated time?
  • How do you feel about your ability to complete your tasks on schedule?
  • How do you ensure that you’re able to meet all of your deadlines? If you struggle to meet deadlines, what are some reasons why they are hard to meet?

6. Planning

  • When given a complex task, how comfortable do you feel about deciding how to complete that task?
  • Do you prefer to plan things out as much as possible ahead of time or trying to figure it out as you go?
  • Do you have any tools you like to use to help with planning?
  • Do you prefer more specific plans or more flexible plans?

7. Metacognition

  • Has it been easy or more challenging to answer the questions on this self-assessment?
  • Do any of these skill categories ever seem to come into conflict with one another?
  • Are there particular skill areas you think you are especially good at?
  • Are there particular skill areas you think you need to work on?
  • What are some ways that your different executive functioning skills work together to help with daily tasks?

8. Task Initiation

  • Do you ever feel difficulty getting started on important tasks like school assignments or work?
  • Do you ever feel difficulty getting started on personal routine tasks like hygiene or cooking a meal?
  • Do you find yourself needing to “ramp up” to get momentum to start on certain activities?
  • Has your ability to start tasks in a particular time frame ever caused challenges to your ability to complete your work?

9. Organization

  • How do you keep track of what tasks you need to complete and when?
  • What are the tools you need to complete your regular tasks?
  • How do you keep track of all of your different plans for different tasks?
  • How do all of your plans fit together to help you do everything you intended to do?

Conclusion

We hope some of the answers to these questions have offered some potential areas to explore new tools and exercises for building up your executive functioning skills! 


The great part about this self-assessment is that it can always be revisited and your answers may evolve over time.


Just knowing the areas you think are most helpful to work on can make a difference, but in future parts of this series we will be covering some exercises that can help with each of these skills. 


Until then if there is anything, in particular, you’d like to learn about executive functioning we’d love to hear from you! 


Just drop us a line at hello@autismgrownup.com, otherwise, we’ll see you in the next part!

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