Executive Functioning Skills – Developmental Age Norms
Posted: July 12, 2022
Many parents are curious about developmental milestones for their children. Although all children are unique, we can refer to developmental models and get an overall idea of skill development within an age bracket. As an Education Therapist, I know that if you look at what predicts how well children will do later in school, more and more evidence shows that executive functions — working memory, inhibition, focus, self-control, organization, and several other skill areas — actually predict success better than IQ tests. As a best practice, I refer to developmental models of executive functioning skills to access skill levels in children from kindergarten through college. This model considers that all humans are born with some genetic predisposition or innate capacity to develop behaviors related to executive functioning.
We develop executive functioning skills through environmental learning, including many in the first two years of life. As children grow, they practice executive functioning skills within social play activities. By ages 5 and 12, early adolescence, we begin to take on greater responsibilities at home and school. During these activities, parents, teachers, and caregivers provide opportunities to practice executive functioning skills and positively reinforce them when children succeed. Adults build a ‘scaffolding’ of support to help children develop skills like organization, time management, emotional control, and other important executive functioning behaviors. When a child is a teenager and young adult, they have many experiences shaping their skills in these areas.
Around this time, adults begin to provide more autonomy opportunities, disassembling the scaffolding, and expect teens and young adults to continue to use executive functioning skills independently. While children may still have stumbles and missteps, if the foundational executive functioning skills are well-established, they can live healthy lives at home, school, and in personal relationships.
The below chart provides information on Executive Functioning Skill Development by Age range.