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Monday, June 14, 2010

Getting Started takes initiative

Children with executive functioning issues can find it very hard to get started and persist with a task (Kidsmatter, 2009; Queensland Health, 2007). This is due to the "initiation" element of executive functioning.

One of the reasons why children with executive functioning issues have this difficulty is because they find it hard to filter, or prioritise, activities and information (Dodd, 2005).

An Example

Have you ever woken up on a day when there are a hundred different things you need to do? How do you decide on what to start with?

One way we make decisions on where to get started is by identifying what is most urgent or important. But this requires the ability to identify what our goals are (planning) and what we are able to do in the time we have with the skills we have (self-evaluation). So if you have trouble with all these things, you could:
  • Spend all day lying in bed stressing about where/when/how to start
  • Start a range of tasks and never get them finished as you get distracted by the possibility that you are not focusing on the most important task.
  • Choose something randomly, with a high chance that the task turns out to be one that you could have done another time, while a more urgent task goes untouched.
As you can imagine, this can have a significant impact socially, academically and in every day tasks for children with executive functioning issues.

At home

Due to this struggle with initiation, children will find it difficult to:
  • get ready for school on time
  • follow every-day routines without verbal, written or visual reminders
  • clean their room without being distracted by a favourite book, toy or TV show

At school

Due to the struggle with initiation, children will find it difficult to:
  • Concentrate on the task at hand without being distracted by what is going on around them
  • Get organised and ready to start at the beginning of a lesson
  • Finishing what they have started

In the next few posts we will explore how we can help children prioritise, organise and stay on track even if they do have executive functioning issues.


Dodd, S. (2005). Understanding Autism. Sydney: Elsevier.

Kidsmatter (2009). How Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects children. Retrieved 8th May 2010 from

Queensland Health. (2007). Executive Function and Capacity. Retrieved 8th May, 2010 from


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