Cognition, or the mental processes involved in thinking, learning, and understanding, plays a crucial role in students' academic success and overall development. Students with cognitive impairments or brain injuries often have difficulty with tasks such as reading comprehension, critical thinking, problem-solving, and self-regulation.


Executive Functioning

Executive functioning skills enable students to plan, organize, prioritize, initiate, sustain, monitor, and adjust their behavior in order to achieve goals. These skills are essential for success in school, as they allow students to manage complex tasks and regulate their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Executive functioning skills can be divided into three broad categories:

  • Working memory refers to the ability to hold and manipulate information in the mind for short periods of time, such as when following multi-step instructions. 
  • Cognitive flexibility refers to the ability to shift attention and adjust strategies in response to changing circumstances, such as when solving a problem that requires a different approach. 
  • Inhibitory control refers to the ability to resist impulses and inhibit automatic responses, such as when refraining from interrupting others during a conversation.

Other executive functioning skills include planning and prioritization, time management, goal-setting, and self-monitoring. These skills are closely intertwined and interdependent, and can be improved through practice and targeted interventions.





Related Topics

  • Check out our page on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) for more resources related to executive functioning skills. Executive functioning overlaps with the SEL competencies known as Self-Awareness and Self-Management.
  • If you suspect that a child may have a disability in this area, visit our Special Education page to learn about Minnesota’s disability categories.


Click MoreThe individuals below frequently partner with special education teachers to support students with developmental cognitive disabilities or traumatic brain injuries. Please reach out if you have questions about this area of functioning or the resources on this page.

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