Executive Functions for Parents And Kids

Executive functions explained in a relatable way

Jillian Enright
Published in
9 min readMar 4, 2022


Created by author

Knowledge is compassion

As parents of neurodiverse children, it’s our responsibility to understand what reasonable expectations might be for our children. Children with asynchronous development may need a little extra patience and guidance.

When we have a deeper understanding of the challenges they face on a moment-to-moment basis, this helps us show our kids more compassion and empathy, rather than becoming frustrated when we feel they aren’t “listening” to us.

Something I found difficult to wrap my head around when I began learning about ADHD and autism was executive functioning — I honestly wondered to myself, what on earth is that?

In all my years of College and University, never once had I encountered this terminology, and my degrees are in psychology! I’ve since written extensively about executive functions from a more academic standpoint.

One of the best ways we can empower our children to advocate for themselves is to teach them about their own neurology (at a developmentally-appropriate level), and help them identify and understand their own strengths and weaknesses.

I’ve broken down the executive functions into five key categories, and explained them in a relatable way, so that parents can help their children understand their own neurology a bit better.

Perhaps more importantly, I write from the child’s perspective, to help parents better understand and empathize with their children’s experiences.

Executive functions:

  1. Inhibition & impulsivity
  2. Mental flexibility
  3. Working memory
  4. Organization & planning
  5. Emotions


Inhibition is like self-control.

Sometimes I do or say things without really thinking, especially if I’m excited or mad. It can get me in trouble too, but I don’t mean to make anyone mad or upset.

When an adults ask me why I did something, I can’t explain because I really don’t know the…



Jillian Enright

She/they. Neurodivergent, 20+ yrs SW & Psych. experience. I write about mental health, neurodiversity, education, and parenting. Founder of Neurodiversity MB.

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