top of page



Strategies for Improving Executive Functioning and Managing ADHD 

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of the phrase “executive functioning”. But what does it mean? Executive functioning refers to the processes that determine whether someone remembers to consider completing a task, whether they perform it, the way in which they prepare for it, at what time they do it, and whether they complete it in an effective, efficient manner. People with great executive functioning have excellent impulse control and a strong working memory, as well as the abilities to stay organized, prioritize in a rational manner, concentrate for extended periods of time, and smoothly switch from one task to another.

In both childhood and adulthood, excellent executive functioning correlates with positive outcomes, including the ability to form and maintain friendships, high academic achievement, increased levels of income, and good physical and mental health. Unfortunately, many students suffer from poor executive functioning in regards to their school work and find themselves having extremely stressful academic experiences. Poor executive functioning also often plagues students in their preparation for standardized tests if they don't receive the right tutoring. At Tannenbaum Tutors, we utilize a thorough approach for efficiently improving students' executive functioning skills. We make sure to tailor the help to the needs of each individual student.            


 What Does Our Well-Rounded Approach Focus On? 

 While every student with executive functioning challenges has their own unique set of circumstances, there are some things to always keep in mind: 

1. Space - Every student needs to have an environment conducive to them doing their homework and, if applicable, preparing for standardized tests. This means different things for different students - for example, some students can only focus in a quiet space; other students actually greatly benefit from music playing in the background.  Similarly, students need to be in a school environment that's right for them in order to develop and maintain strong executive functioning skills.  

2. Time - Students need to respect the value of time and always know what time it is when they do their homework or test-prep. Students with ADHD or other major executive functioning issues often do not keep track of time, much to their detriment.  Furthermore, students struggling with executive functioning often need to be made aware of pockets of time in their schedule. Students often have a generalized sense that they're busy without realizing that even within their busy schedule there are windows of time ripe for doing homework and/or test-prep.  

3. Communication with other specialists - At Tannenbaum Tutors, we take the time to correspond with a student's neuropsychologist, teachers, school learning specialists, and other tutors, including over the phone, when it's appropriate and with the prior approval of the student's parents. Our team members who specialize in helping students with learning differences and executive functioning challenges take the time to read neuropsych reports to gather insight that they incorporate into the lessons.

4. Communication with parents - We regularly update parents on what takes place during the lessons and what advice we give, in large part so that everyone stays on the same page. When there's a clear bridge between what we do to help the student with executive functioning and what their parents do, this goes an enormous way in making efficient progress. 

5. A strong rapport with the student - Help with executive functioning succeeds when the tutor or executive functioning coach has empathy. The tutor or coach needs to be assertive and focus on changing negative habits in the name of the student's long-term well-being but also show a genuine appreciation for what the student is concerned about in the here and now.  

6. A healthy sleep schedule - Students should get enough sleep each night during the week and - just as importantly - not wake up too late on the weekend. Every single person benefits from consistently in their sleep schedule. 9:30 a.m. is sleeping-in on a Saturday, not noon.  

7. A willingness to use short-term incentives - Many teenagers recognize the long-term benefits of doing well in school and getting great scores on a standardized test, but the rewards are often nowhere near immediate. They want to go to a college they'll love, but college is a year or years away. They want to have a great career when they're older, but that's even farther down the road. Therefore, teenagers often need to be presented with short-term incentives to feel fully motivated. The need for short-term incentives is often the case for younger students. Non-intrinsic incentives for doing homework very often get a bad rap. However, they can be crucial for getting a student into better habits. Human nature is what is, and executive functioning help needs to take that into account.      

ADHD and Executive Functioning 

   ADHD is an executive functioning disorder. It hampers a person's impulse-control, a feature vital for carrying out healthy executive functioning. When someone with ADHD feels an impulse to continue an activity that they find stimulating, like video games or scrolling through Instagram, when they should switch to a more important task, they find it extremely difficult, or outright impossible, to pause long enough to stop what they're doing and redirect their focus and energy towards the other endeavor. If a student with ADHD manages to start their homework, they very often don't concentrate for long, because they can't overcome their impulse to shift their attention to something they find stimulating.   

Fortunately, ADHD is manageable. Managing it has both a biological and behavioral component.

Since ADHD is neurobiological, medication very often has a major role - often the biggest role - to play in helping a student manage their effective functioning issues. With the behavioral piece, students with ADHD need to learn to pause from what stimulates them; change what they say to themselves because their own words can help shape their emotions and, thus, help shape their ability to shift gears; and change what they visualize, because visuals - both in their mind and what's in front of them externally - can have enormous impacts on behavior. 

For students with ADHD, it's vital that they do their homework in a structured, rationally-planned environment that helps keep them on task. For example, students with ADHD should have numerous, noticeable clocks in the room in which they do homework and/or test-prep. A big clock should be right in front of them; there should be clocks on the walls so that if they lose their focus and start darting their eyes around the room, the clocks will serve as external reminders that they need to stay focused.  

We believe strongly in the value of multi-faceted support. Neuropsychologists and tutors/executive functioning coaches offer different types of essential help. When a doctor making the right diagnosis and prescribing the right medication is coupled with a tutor or executive functioning coach providing direct, at-home support that is attentive and calibrated to the needs of the individual student, the benefits are amazing.   


unnamed (7).jpg
bottom of page