New Understanding of ADHD – It’s an “Executive Function” Disorder

February 9, 2014



In recent years, there have been fundamental changes in our understanding of ADHD due to the tremendous advances in just the past decade of scientific research (numerous genetic and brain imaging studies ).  Although the theory that ADHD is really a disorder in the development of executive functions has been promoted for many years by leading ADHD researcher, Russell Barkley, Ph.D., and others, it is now the accepted belief by most ADHD experts in the field.


What does this mean to parents and teachers?  It means that ADHD is far more than a disorder of the three core symptoms (inattention, impulsivity, and sometimes hyperactivity).  It is not just a neurobehavioral disorder.  It is far more complex than that.  ADHD is really a disorder in the developmental of the child’s executive functions – the management functions and range of central control processes in the brain…the self-directed actions a person takes to achieve their goals and solve problems.  Kids with ADHD are developmentally delayed by a few years (about 30 percent) in their executive function and self-regulation abilities.

What are executive functions?  We don’t know exactly all of the components, but most experts agree they involve:


See my blog of July 2012 that includes an excellent 5 minute video on the development of EFs, from The Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University.  Watch for future blogs of strategies, supports, and resources that parents and teachers can use to help children and teens with executive function (EF) weaknesses; as well as those found in my books and other resources


by Sandra Rief, 2014


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