What exactly is executive functioning, and what can be done to improve it?” – with Dr. Marla Baum PsyD

Home » What exactly is executive functioning, and what can be done to improve it?” – with Dr. Marla Baum PsyD

During the Healthful Woman podcast, host Dr. Nathan Fox discusses executive functioning with Dr. Marla Baum, a child psychologist. Learn more about executive functioning, the label used to characterize the skills you need for daily success. You can also learn how executive functioning is tied to ADHD.

What is Executive Functioning?

Executive functioning is a label that characterizes the skills individuals need to accomplish their goals. It pertains to the part of the brain that helps you stay focused, on track, and organized. Individuals may experience these symptoms on their own or a combination of them. Executive functions can overlap with difficulty with paying attention.

Executive function can be categorized into two behavioral categories. One is your behavior regulation abilities, and the other is your work-based executive function. Behavioral regulation deals with your ability to control impulses, feelings, and transitions and sense your impact on those around you. Work-based executive functions involve your ability to see a task, start a task, and focus on the task.

Another condition is your ability to maintain order with your belongings. This involves planning and prioritizing tasks and keeping track of your stuff.

Executive Function and ADHD

Individuals may experience these symptoms without ADHD; however, many individuals with ADHD experience these symptoms. If a symptom of ADHD, these can be diminished with medications. Dr. Baum states, “Medication will help with, if you have a difficulty focusing, it will allow you to have the stamina to get through these executive functioning tasks. But if you have a deficit in executive functioning per se, then you need to what we call be taught how to be more organized.” All-in-all, ADHD medication can help patients regulate their symptoms and calm down.


Behavior regulation can be treated with medication, or through a behaviorist.  There are also behavioral and dialectical behavioral strategies that you can use to help kids with their emotional regulation. Sometimes, those same strategies can help with executive function. 

Dr. Baum says, “The main recommendation is to work with an executive functioning coach, someone with a lot of experience teaching these skills. Sometimes, it’s a well-seasoned teacher. Sometimes, it’s a learning specialist. Sometimes, it’s psychologists like me. So, there’s a lot of people that can do this executive functioning work because it’s really not amenable to medication.”

The first step to regulating executive functioning is to visit with a professional and assess your case.

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