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Executive Function: How does it impact literacy?

The executive function system manages and regulates multiple cognitive processes including speech, language, reading, and writing skills.

Executive function skills develop throughout childhood and into young adulthood. They are critical during the school age years.  

Not all children develop these skills in the same way, and it is common for those with learning difficulties to struggle in these areas.

Watch for difficulties that can cause struggles with reading, writing, and other academic skills.

  • Children can have difficulty sustaining attention long enough to learn letter symbols, their sounds, and differentiate subtle distinctions.
  • Poor working (short term) memory can make it difficult to hold on to chunks of sounds or words when sounding out to decode (read) or encode (spell) words. 
  • Children with challenges in flexible thinking may struggle with multiple meanings or same sound/different spelling words as well as absurdities such as “She has a frog in her throat.” They may take that statement literally.
  • Comprehension can be affected as language becomes more complex as in the use of the passive voice, “The baby was kissed by his mother.” This puts demand on working memory to hold one chunk of information (baby) and wait for the remainder (was kissed by). Missing that piece may cause one to read/hear the phrase as, “The baby kissed his mother.”
  • Challenges with focus and sustained attention can make it difficult to filter out distractions and process oral and/or written instructions.

If your child is struggling with following directions, reading, writing, or organization skills, talk to the teacher about classroom performance and consider outside help.

Please contact Language Lab any time you have questions or concerns. We’re here to help!




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