Executive Functioning Skills Checklist: Enhance Productivity & Success

Executive Functioning Skills Checklist: Enhance Productivity & Success

Executive functioning skills are essential for individuals to manage daily tasks, plan activities, regulate emotions, and achieve both short-term and long-term goals. These skills encompass a variety of cognitive processes, such as working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control. The importance of these skills cannot be understated, as they play a crucial role in various aspects of life including learning, social interactions, and emotional well-being.

Assessing and understanding executive functioning skills can be challenging, but implementing an executive functioning skills checklist can be a powerful tool to support this process. By breaking down essential behaviors and competencies, these checklists can provide valuable insights into an individual's strengths and areas for improvement. This, in turn, can guide parents, educators, and individuals themselves in supporting the development and enhancement of these critical life skills.

Key Takeaways

  • Executive functioning skills are crucial for daily tasks, emotional well-being, and social interactions.
  • An executive functioning skills checklist is a valuable tool to assess strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Proper assessment and support can lead to significant improvements in an individual's executive functioning skills.

Understanding Executive Functioning Skills

Executive functioning skills are the cognitive abilities that help us manage daily tasks, solve problems, and organize our behavior. These skills are essential for successful learning and adapting in different situations. Let's explore what executive functioning is and how it develops throughout childhood.

Executive function is a set of cognitive processes that include working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control. These processes play a crucial role in helping individuals plan, organize, and execute daily tasks. The center on the developing child explains that executive function skills lay the foundation for important life skills like time management, problem-solving, and emotional regulation.

Developing strong executive functioning skills is essential for academic success and overall well-being. These skills emerge during early childhood and continue to develop throughout adolescence. A supportive environment with plenty of opportunities for children to practice these cognitive processes contributes significantly to their development.

Here's a checklist of some key executive functioning skills:

  • Working Memory: The ability to hold and manipulate information in the mind, such as remembering steps in a complex task or solving math problems mentally.
  • Cognitive Flexibility: The capacity to think creatively and adapt to changing situations, such as generating alternative solutions to a problem or adjusting to a new routine.
  • Inhibitory Control: The ability to resist impulses and focus on a task, such as waiting for one's turn in a game or ignoring distractions during a test.

Parents and educators can support the development of executive functioning skills by providing a nurturing environment with clear guidelines, structure, and opportunities for independent decision-making. Encouraging children to engage in activities that challenge their cognitive abilities, such as puzzles, memory games, and role-playing scenarios, can also help enhance these skills.

In summary, understanding executive functioning skills is essential to support children's cognitive development and well-being. With the right strategies and resources, children can grow into adults with strong executive functions, better prepared for life's challenges.

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Significance of Executive Functioning Skills

Executive functioning skills play a crucial role in children's learning experiences, both at home and in school. These skills encompass cognitive processes that help children regulate their behavior, engage in problem-solving, and adapt to new situations. Developing strong executive functioning skills can positively impact various aspects of a child's life, from academic performance to social interactions.

In the classroom, teachers recognize the importance of these skills, as they enable children to perform various tasks, such as following instructions, staying organized, and controlling impulses. Proper development of executive functioning during infancy and early childhood can help children thrive in their education journey, ultimately leading to a more successful learning experience.

At home, parents can play a significant role in fostering their child's executive functioning skills by incorporating various strategies and activities into daily life. Creating consistent routines, offering age-appropriate challenges, and giving ample opportunities for children to practice self-regulation can all help improve these skills. Moreover, open communication between parents and teachers can ensure a supportive environment that encourages continued development both in school and at home.

In social settings, executive functioning skills help children navigate various interactions with their peers, enhancing their ability to develop meaningful relationships. These skills are essential for participation in group activities, cooperating with others, and understanding the perspectives of others; all of which contribute to a more fulfilling social experience.

It is important, therefore, for parents and educators to prioritize the development of executive functioning skills in children's early years. By doing so, they can provide a strong foundation that will support children's learning, social interactions, and overall growth throughout their educational journey.

Key Executive Functioning Skills


Planning is an essential executive functioning skill that involves the ability to create and follow a roadmap to achieve a specific goal. This includes breaking down tasks into steps, estimating the time required, and anticipating potential obstacles. Developing strong planning skills helps individuals become more efficient and effective in managing their daily activities.


Organization involves arranging information, tasks, or objects in a systematic manner that allows for easy access and retrieval. Proper organization aids in time management and makes it easier to keep track of responsibilities. By teaching organization skills, individuals can improve their productivity and overall functioning.

Working Memory

Working memory is the ability to hold and manipulate information in the mind for short periods. It is essential for problem-solving, learning, and following instructions. Enhancing working memory can benefit individuals in various aspects of life, from academic performance to social interactions.


Flexibility refers to the ability to adapt to changes and think about situations from different perspectives. It involves adjusting strategies and actions in response to new information or unexpected challenges. Fostering flexibility allows individuals to navigate life's unanticipated twists and turns more effectively.

Task Initiation

Task initiation is the ability to begin a task or project independently and promptly. It is essential in overcoming procrastination and making progress towards goals. Developing this skill can boost productivity and decrease stress associated with unfinished tasks.

Emotional Control

Emotional control involves managing one's emotions and reactions to various situations. This skill is critical for maintaining composure under pressure and responding appropriately to challenging experiences. Cultivating emotional control helps strengthen resilience, interpersonal relationships, and overall mental well-being.


Self-regulation is the ability to monitor and control one's behavior, thoughts, and emotions. It enables individuals to manage impulsivity, maintain focus, and adhere to societal norms. Teaching self-regulation skills can contribute to improved academic, social, and emotional functioning.

Response Inhibition

Response inhibition involves suppressing inappropriate or impulsive behaviors in favor of more suitable actions. This skill is crucial for self-discipline and adhering to societal expectations. Enhancing response inhibition can result in better decision-making and improved social interactions.

Impulse Control

Impulse control is the capacity to resist immediate urges and think before acting. It is crucial for maintaining self-control and avoiding harmful or impulsive choices. Strengthening impulse control can lead to better decision-making and healthier relationships.


Prioritizing involves determining the importance of tasks and activities and allocating resources accordingly. It is an essential skill for time management and achieving goals efficiently. Learning to prioritize effectively can improve productivity and reduce stress.

Problem Solving

Problem-solving is the ability to identify challenges, envision solutions, and implement appropriate strategies to overcome obstacles. This skill is vital for navigating daily challenges and achieving long-term goals. Enhancing problem-solving abilities can contribute to greater adaptability, creativity, and overall success.

Mental Flexibility

Mental flexibility refers to the capacity to think about situations, ideas, or problems from multiple perspectives and adjust mental strategies as needed. It is essential for adapting to change, learning from experience, and fostering creativity. Encouraging mental flexibility can lead to increased problem-solving skills and a more adaptive outlook on life.

Assessing Executive Functioning Skills

Assessing executive functioning skills is essential for identifying potential executive function disorder in children and adults. A checklist can be a helpful tool for parents, teachers, and clinicians to monitor and evaluate an individual's progress. Executive functions include skills such as planning, organization, impulse control, and working memory, which play a crucial role in an individual's daily life.

One of the widely used tools for evaluating executive functions is the Childhood Executive Functioning Inventory (CHEXI). This inventory measures executive functioning by focusing on two main domains; inhibitory control and working memory. Assessments also consider children's ability to initiate and complete tasks independently, manage their emotions, and exhibit appropriate social skills.

Another popular instrument for assessing executive functioning is the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF), which is available for preschool-aged children. This inventory measures various executive function components, including cognitive flexibility, goal setting, and problem-solving. Caregivers evaluate the child's behavior using a questionnaire, offering useful insights into the child's strengths and weaknesses.

In addition to these standardized assessments, it is crucial to observe an individual's behavior in different settings, such as home, school, and social situations. This comprehensive approach allows professionals to get a clearer picture of the person's executive functioning abilities, helping them make more accurate diagnoses.

When assessing executive functioning skills, it is essential to be patient, supportive, and compassionate. Recognize that the individual may experience difficulties with certain tasks or situations, and provide encouragement along the way. By doing so, parents, teachers, and clinicians can work together to better understand the individual's needs and develop appropriate strategies to help them succeed.

Building Executive Functioning Skills

Practical Games

One of the most enjoyable ways to support the development of executive functioning skills is through playing practical games. Engaging games that involve problem-solving, memory, planning, and focus can greatly enhance a child's cognitive abilities. Some popular games include:

  • Puzzles: Encourages problem-solving and critical thinking
  • Simon Says: Develops impulse control, focus, and attention
  • Memory Games: Enhances working memory and attention to detail
  • Board Games: Boosts strategic planning and decision-making skills

Classroom Activities

Schools play an important role in fostering executive functioning skills through classroom activities. Teachers can incorporate various strategies into daily lessons to support and enhance cognitive development. Here are a few useful activities:

  • Goal Setting: Encourage students to set personal goals for projects, assignments, or even in-class activities. It helps them plan and prioritize tasks.
  • Task Breakdown: Divide larger tasks into smaller steps, making it easier for students to manage and complete them.
  • Timers: Implement time management activities to encourage students to finish their work within a specified time.
  • Reflective Journaling: Encourage students to write about their actions, emotions, and thoughts. This supports self-awareness and emotional regulation.

Home Activities

Supporting your child's executive functioning development can continue at home through practical activities that promote organization, time management, and focus. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Chores: Assign age-appropriate tasks, such as cleaning up toys or making the bed. This fosters responsibility and builds organizational skills.
  • Meal Planning: Involve your child in planning and preparing meals together. This encourages decision-making and problem-solving skills.
  • Reading Time: Allocate a dedicated time for reading each day. This helps improve focus and concentration.
  • Family Discussions: Engage your child in family conversations to encourage active listening, communication, and emotional regulation skills.

By incorporating these games, activities, and practices, you can support your child's executive functioning skills development and prepare them for greater success in school and life.

Strategies for Improvement

Enhancing executive functioning skills is essential for individuals with attention deficits or those diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. It's beneficial to consider several strategies that can support improvement in these areas. Keep in mind that the tone of the following section is friendly, and we are using a third-person point of view.

One effective method to foster progress in executive functioning is by creating a checklist for various tasks. This approach enables individuals to remain organized, focused, and on track with their goals. The act of ticking off the items on the list can also evoke a sense of accomplishment and motivate them to continue practicing these valuable skills.

Establishing a structured daily routine can also be helpful as consistency aids in enhancing executive functioning. A well-planned routine might include regular times for wake-up, meals, work or school, exercise, and relaxation. This structure helps train the brain to focus on tasks and promotes better management of time and attention.

Another strategy to consider is the use of a timer for tasks, especially those that require undivided attention. Setting a timer for work sessions, followed by short breaks, can aid in maintaining focus while preventing burnout. This technique, known as the Pomodoro method, boosts productivity and fosters the continued practice of executive functioning skills.

Incorporating mindfulness techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, can improve executive functioning by enhancing mental clarity and focus. These practices allow individuals to become more aware of their thoughts and emotions, leading to better self-regulation and decision-making.

Finally, seeking professional support in the form of therapy or coaching might be beneficial for those struggling with executive functioning skills. Therapists and coaches can offer tailored strategies and techniques to address specific challenges and promote healthy cognitive habits. One example is Goal Management Training, which has proven effective in helping individuals with executive functioning difficulties.

By employing these strategies and maintaining a consistent practice, individuals can work toward improving their executive functioning skills and overall quality of life. The key is to stay committed and be patient with the progress.

Supporting Children with Executive Functioning Issues

Parental Role

Parents play a crucial role in helping their child develop executive functioning skills. They can support their child by creating a structured environment at home and providing routines that help promote consistency and predictability. This might include maintaining regular meal times, offering consistent bedtime routines, and establishing clear rules and expectations.

Encouraging open communication and actively listening to the child's concerns can help parents understand their child's needs. Offering guidance and modeling appropriate behavior can also foster better executive functioning skills.

Moreover, parents can support their children by implementing various strategies, such as:

  • Creating visual schedules for daily routines.
  • Using timers to help manage time and transitions.
  • Breaking tasks into smaller, achievable steps.
  • Providing specific and clear instructions.

Teacher's Role

Teachers can also support students with executive functioning issues by creating a structured classroom environment. This might involve posting schedules visually, using clear and concise instructions, and providing ample opportunities for students to practice their skills.

Some strategies that teachers can employ in the classroom include:

  • Incorporating visual aids, such as charts, graphs, and diagrams to facilitate understanding.
  • Using multisensory approaches when teaching new concepts.
  • Offering frequent breaks and movement opportunities for students.
  • Providing consistent and immediate feedback to help students stay on track.

Additionally, collaborating with parents and other professionals, like therapists, is essential to help students succeed academically and socially.

Therapist's Role

Therapists specializing in executive functioning issues can work closely with children, parents, and teachers to develop tailored interventions and strategies. They can help identify the specific executive functioning challenges a child is facing and recommend appropriate accommodations and supports.

In therapy, children can learn various skills, such as:

  • Planning and organizing tasks.
  • Flexibly adapting to changes in routines.
  • Developing emotional regulation and self-control.

By working closely with parents and teachers, a therapist can ensure that the strategies and interventions implemented in the therapy sessions are effectively carried out in the child's daily life, creating a more supportive and consistent environment for growth and development.

Get your FREE Executive Function Skills Checklist!

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Executive Function Skills and Neurodivergence

Neurodivergence refers to the natural variation in human brain functioning and encompasses a range of neurological differences such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Studies have suggested that executive function skills are differently developed or influenced in neurodivergent populations. This section explores the executive function skills and challenges faced by individuals with autism, ADHD, anxiety, and OCD.

Executive Function Skills and Autism

In individuals with autism, challenges in executive function skills are commonly observed. People with ASD may experience difficulties with:

  • Working memory: Such as memorizing information and applying it to various tasks.
  • Cognitive flexibility: Struggling with changes in routine and adapting to new information.
  • Planning and organization: Difficulty in setting goals, breaking larger tasks into small steps, and organizing their environment.

Interventions and strategies such as visual schedules, social stories, and routine implementation can help support the development of these skills in individuals with autism.

Executive Function Skills and ADHD

ADHD is often associated with executive function difficulties, including:

  • Inhibition: Trouble stifling impulsiveness and thinking before acting.
  • Attention: Struggling to focus and maintain attention on tasks, and being easily distracted.
  • Time management: Difficulty estimating the time needed for tasks and setting priorities.

To improve these executive function skills in individuals with ADHD, methods like behavioral interventions, organizational tools, and breaking tasks into smaller steps can be beneficial.

Executive Function Skills and Anxiety

Anxiety can also impact executive function skills, as it tends to affect an individual's:

  • Working memory: Being preoccupied with anxious thoughts, which might hinder the ability to process and store new information.
  • Attention: Difficulty concentrating due to excessive worry.
  • Cognitive flexibility: Struggling to adapt to changing situations, often due to fear of the unknown.

Coping strategies such as mindfulness exercises, deep breathing, and psychotherapy may help improve executive function skills in those with anxiety.

Executive Function Skills and OCD

Individuals with OCD may experience challenges in executive function skills, particularly:

  • Inhibition: Difficulty controlling obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
  • Planning and organization: Being preoccupied with rigid routines and perfectionism, which might impact goal setting and task prioritization.
  • Cognitive flexibility: A struggle to adjust to changes, as they may be perceived as threats to their established routines.

Treatment approaches, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and exposure and response prevention, can support the improvement of executive function skills in those with OCD.

Are you Looking for Executive Function Tools to Add to Your Toolbox?

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Teenagers and Executive Functioning Skills

Teenagers go through significant changes as they transition from childhood to adolescence. Among these changes is the development of executive functioning skills. Executive functions are a set of cognitive processes that enable individuals to plan, organize, initiate, and regulate their thoughts and actions. They play a crucial role in a teenager's academic, social, and emotional well-being.

Adolescence is a critical stage for the development of executive functions, as the brain undergoes substantial changes during this period. A study on the development of executive functions in an Australian sample of children and adolescents found that these abilities develop throughout childhood and into adolescence.

To better support teenagers, it's essential to be aware of the different aspects of executive functioning skills. These include:

  • Working memory: The ability to hold and manipulate information in the mind, even while being distracted
  • Inhibitory control: The capacity to resist impulses, distractions, and prioritize tasks
  • Cognitive flexibility: Willingness to adapt and shift mental focus based on changing demands and situations
  • Planning and organization: Setting goals and planning steps to achieve those goals
  • Time management: Estimating the duration of tasks and allocating appropriate time for completion
  • Emotional regulation: Managing emotions and adjusting one's emotional response to various situations

An executive functioning skills checklist can help parents, teachers, and teenagers themselves identify areas they may struggle with. By identifying these challenges, they can develop appropriate interventions and strategies to improve these skills.

Teaching and reinforcing executive functioning skills in teenagers can have long-lasting benefits. A study exploring executive function and peer problems from early childhood through middle adolescence found that improved executive function could lead to better social skills and academic performance.

In conclusion, promoting executive functioning skills in teenagers is crucial for their overall development. By using a checklist to identify potential challenges and implementing appropriate strategies, parents and educators can provide adolescents with a strong foundation for success in various aspects of life.

Adults and Executive Functioning Skills

Adults rely on their executive functioning skills daily to navigate work, social life, and personal responsibilities. These skills include time management, problem-solving, emotional regulation, and organization. Developing and maintaining strong executive functioning skills can lead to improved mental health and overall well-being.

Difficulty in managing tasks, emotions, and relationships indicate that an adult may need to evaluate and improve their executive functioning skills. Assessing these skills can be done through various assessments like the CHEXI, which measures an individual's efficiency in different executive domains.

Some adults might face challenges with specific executive functioning skills, while others may encounter difficulties across several areas. It's crucial for them to identify these areas and implement targeted strategies to enhance their skills.

Incorporating consistent routines and breaking tasks into smaller, manageable steps can significantly improve an adult's executive functioning. Furthermore, setting specific goals and monitoring progress can aid in maintaining motivation and organizing activities more effectively.

Using resources like mobile applications, planners, and organizers can also support adults in honing their executive functioning skills. These tools can assist in time management, scheduling, and prioritizing tasks. In addition, they can help track habits and provide reminders of important appointments or deadlines.

Lastly, remember that it's essential for adults to practice self-compassion and patience while working on their executive functioning skills. Progress might seem slow initially, but consistency and determination will lead to substantial growth and success in the long run.

Tools and Accommodations

Developing executive functioning skills is crucial for managing daily tasks and achieving long-term goals. Tools and accommodations can help support individuals in improving these skills, particularly in areas like time management, self-monitoring, and metacognition. Here are some strategies and resources that can be beneficial.

Time management is a vital skill for organizing and prioritizing tasks. Using tools such as visual timers can help individuals to stay focused and allocate time effectively. In addition, implementing a daily schedule or calendar can significantly improve time management skills.

Interventions, such as targeted exercises and activities, can help support self-monitoring and self-control. For goals setting, teaching individuals to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) goals can facilitate progress monitoring and accomplishment. Regular check-ins with a support person, like an educator or therapist, can also enhance self-monitoring and accountability.

Graphic organizers, like checklists or visual maps, can be effective tools for planning projects, assignments, or daily activities. These visual aids enable individuals to break down tasks into manageable steps, simplifying complex processes and improving task completion.

For students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP), accommodations may include extended time for assignments, reduced distractions, or alternative testing formats. These accommodations can be tailored to each person's unique needs, supporting their executive functioning growth. Check out this post on Executive Function IEP goals.

Metacognition, or the ability to think about one's thinking, plays a crucial role in improving executive functioning skills. Encourage individuals to take regular breaks during tasks, practice mindfulness, and reflect on their progress. This self-awareness can lead to better problem-solving, decision-making, and adjustments to strategies.

Finally, incorporating age-appropriate life skills training can also enhance executive functioning development. Teaching basic skills like cooking, laundry, or budgeting can help individuals apply executive functioning strategies to real-world situations.

Are you Looking for Executive Function Tools to Add to Your Toolbox?

Check out the Neurodivergent Life Skills Toolbox Membership! You will get access to a growing resource library and mini-courses to help you teach executive function skills and life skills to neurodivergent kids and teens.

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Free Resources for Executive Functioning Skills

There are many excellent free resources available to help individuals improve their executive functioning skills. These resources usually come in the form of checklists, worksheets, and planning guides designed for personal use. They are an excellent starting point for those looking to enhance their skills in organization, time management, and decision-making.

One such resource is a free checklist that can help pinpoint specific areas that might need further attention. This user-friendly tool breaks down various aspects of executive functioning into different categories, making it easier for individuals to identify their strengths and weaknesses. It's an effective way to monitor progress over time.

In addition to checklists, there are several free worksheets available online designed to support executive functioning skill development. These worksheets often target specific skills, such as goal-setting, problem-solving, or task prioritization. They provide structured activities and exercises to practice and enhance these critical abilities.

Planning skills are another essential aspect of executive functioning. To help improve these abilities, free resources such as daily planners and time management guides can be easily found online. These tools aid in the organization of daily tasks and help individuals effectively manage their time.

In a friendly and supportive tone, these free resources for executive functioning skills offer a great way to develop and bolster these essential abilities. Utilizing checklists, worksheets, and planning guides, individuals can take the first step in enhancing their executive functioning skills for personal growth and success.

Additional Executive Function Resources You Will Love!

Executive Function Skills by Age: A Comprehensive Guide for Milestones

25+ Executive Function Games to Boost Brain Skills

Executive Functioning Occupational Therapy: Enhancing Daily Life Skills

Executive Functioning Challenges with Task Initiation: Resources to Help Teach Life Skills

Executive Functioning IEP Goals

Uncovering the Powerful Connection Between Executive Function Skills and Emotional Regulation Abilities

Executive Function Coaching: Enhance Your Skills Today

Executive Function Activities: Boosting Brainpower with Fun Games

Get your FREE Executive Function Skills Checklist!

Get your Free Executive Function Skills Checklist Here or by clicking the image below!

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are common executive functioning skills for adults?

Executive functioning skills for adults include planning, organizing, time management, emotional regulation, and working memory. These skills help individuals to manage daily tasks, prioritize their work, and maintain an overall sense of well-being. Developing executive functioning skills can lead to increased productivity, better decision-making, and improved relationships with others.

How can I teach executive functioning skills at home?

Teaching executive functioning skills at home can involve various strategies and activities. Parents can help their children develop these skills through activities like setting routines, creating to-do lists, breaking down tasks into smaller steps, and encouraging time management. Playing games that involve planning, memory, or strategy, such as puzzles or board games, can also support executive functioning skills development.

How do executive functioning skills develop by age?

Executive functioning skills develop gradually throughout childhood, as the brain matures and grows. It is common for these skills to begin emerging during infancy and continually develop throughout the early years of life. Executive functioning skills tend to improve significantly during the late teenage years and early adulthood, as the prefrontal cortex, responsible for executive functions, reaches full maturity.

What is the executive functioning checklist for middle school students?

An executive functioning checklist for middle school students may include items that assess skills such as time management, organization, goal-setting, and problem-solving. Typical tasks on this checklist might involve tracking assignments and due dates, maintaining an organized workspace, breaking down complex tasks into smaller steps, and reflecting on progress towards personal goals. Teachers and parents can use such checklists in identifying areas where middle school students may need additional support in developing their executive functioning skills.

What is the executive functioning checklist for preschool children?

The executive functioning checklist for preschool children focuses on emerging skills that are essential for their cognitive development. This checklist might include items that assess attention, impulse control, emotional regulation, and basic problem-solving abilities. Parents can observe and support their preschool children's executive functioning skills through activities that encourage creativity, social interaction, and emotional understanding.

Which key domains make up executive functioning skills?

Executive functioning skills can be divided into key domains, including cognitive flexibility, working memory, and inhibitory control. Cognitive flexibility involves the ability to think, plan, and adjust one's behavior according to changing situations. Working memory refers to the capacity to store and manipulate information temporarily, while inhibitory control refers to the ability to suppress impulses and focus on a specific task. Developing these domains is crucial for an individual's overall cognitive functioning and success in various areas of life.

executive function skills checklist