Executive functioning: Flexible thinking, self-monitoring and managing distractions

Executive functioning skills are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions and juggle multiple tasks successfully. They are essential for learning, behaviour, and development.

The videos and tip sheet below provide valuable insight into the lived experience and feelings of young Autistic people, as well as practical strategies young people can use to build their executive functioning skills.

The resources focus on flexible thinking, self-monitoring and managing distractions. These resources would be useful for Autistic students, teachers, and parents.  

These resources were developed with input from Autistic people, allied health professionals and education professionals. The creation of these resources was proudly funded by the Victorian Department of Education.

Executive functioning: Tips for Autistic teens

In school you may use executive functioning to pay attention in class, know when homework is due, complete schoolwork on time, and have your bag prepared for school each day. In secondary school there are extra challenges and demands compared to primary school. You are expected to complete more homework, do bigger and more complicated tasks, move between different classrooms, and do more things by yourself. Executive functioning helps us manage these changes in secondary school. 

Read the information sheet for more tips and advice.

Executive functioning videos

Video 1: Cecilia, Student

This video features Cecilia, an Autistic secondary school student. Cecilia discusses how her own executive functioning and some of the ways it impacts her at school and at home. Cecilia covers some of the challenges she faces at school and the strategies she uses to help her thrive. 

Video 2: Cathy, Teacher

This video features Cathy, a teacher and education specialist. Cathy discusses how flexible thinking, self-monitoring and managing distractions can impact Autistic secondary students. Cathy also provides tips on how students can develop skills to overcome any challenges they have with these executive functions. 

Video 3: Svetlana, Speech Pathologist

This video features Svetlana, a speech pathologist. Svetlana gives an overview of flexible thinking, self-monitoring and managing distractions, and provides examples of how these executive functions can be challenging for some people. Svetlana also provides strategies she uses with her clients to overcome challenges, and covers how parents and schools can help support Autistic students.

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