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Executive Function

Developmental Tasks Requiring Executive Function Skills

Children and teenagers are required to perform all kinds of skills that require executive skills. The list below describes tasks or behaviors that adults commonly expect children to be able to do in different age ranges (Dawson, Peg and Richard Guare. Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents. New York, NY: The Guilford Press, 2010. Print.).










  • Run simple errands (e.g., "get your book from the bedroom")
  • Tidy bedroom/playroom with assistance
  • Perform simple chores and self-help tasks with reminders (e.g., brush teeth, get dressed, clear dishes from table)
  • Inhibit behaviors: don’t touch hot stove, run into the street, take another child´s toy, hit, bite, push, etc.

Kindergarten - Grade 2

  • Run errands (two/three step directions)
  • Tidy bedroom/playroom
  • Perform simple chores, self-help tasks; may need reminders (e.g., make bed)
  • Bring papers to and from school
  • Complete homework assignments (20 minutes max)
  • Decide how to spend money/allowance
  • Inhibit behaviors: raise hand to speak, keep hands to self, don’t swear, follow safety rules

Grades 3-5

  • Run errands (may involve a time delay or greater distance, like going to a store or remembering to do something after school)
  • Tidy bedroom/playroom (may include vacuuming, dusting, etc.)
  • Perform chores that take 15-30 minutes (e.g., clean up after dinner, rake the leaves)
  • Bring books, papers, assignments to and from school
  • Keep track of belongings when away from home
  • Complete homework assignments(up to 1 hour maximum)
  • Plan simple school project such as a book report (select book, read book, write report)
  • Keep track of changing daily schedule (different activities after school)
  • Save money for desired objects, plan how to earn money
  • Inhibit & self regulate: behave when teacher is out of the classroom; refrain from rude comments, temper tantrums, bad manners

Grades 6-8

  • Help out with chores around the home, including both daily and occasional tasks (e.g., empty the dishwasher, raking leaves, shoveling snow); tasks may take 60-90 minutes to finish
  • Babysit younger siblings or for pay
  • Use a system for organizing schoolwork (incl. planner, notebooks)
  • Follow complex school schedule(changing teachers and changing schedules)
  • Plan and complete long-term projects: tasks to be accomplished and a reasonable timeline to follow; may require planning multiple large projects at the same time
  • Plan time, including after-school activities, homework, family responsibilities; estimate how long it takes to complete individual tasks and adjust schedule to fit
  • Inhibit rule-breaking in the absence of visible authority

High School

  • Manage schoolwork effectively on a day-to-day basis, including:
    •  completing and handing in assignments on time,
    •  studying for tests,
    • creating and following timelines for long-term projects, and
    • making adjustments in effort an quality of work in response to feedback from teachers and others (e.g., grades on tests, papers).
  • Establish and refine a long-term goal and make plans for meeting that goal.
    • If the goal beyond high school is college, the student selects appropriate courses and maintains GPA to ensure acceptance into college.
      • The student also participates in extracurricular activities,
      • signs up for and takes SATs or ACTs at the appropriate time and
      • carries out the college application process.
    • If the student does not plan to go to college, he or she pursues vocational courses and, if applicable, employment outside of school to ensure the training and experience necessary to obtain employment after graduation.
  • Make good use of leisure time, including obtaining employment or pursuing recreational activities during the summer.
  • Inhibit reckless and dangerous behaviors (e.g., use of illegal substances, sexual acting out, shoplifting, vandalism).


Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents, Second Edition: A Practical Guide to Assessment and Intervention by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare

Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary "Executive Skills" Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare

Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents' Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning by Joyce Eric-Kahn and Laurie Dietzel.

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Holly Graves & Associates,