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Typical Milestones for Executive Functioning Skills

by Courtney Dodson


Areas of executive functioning such as working memory, flexible thinking, and inhibitor control (the ability to control impulses) begin developing in infancy and continue to develop through your 20's. Caregivers often ask us: "why isn't my toddler more organized?" or "shouldn't my ten-year-old be able to handle these tasks herself?". Executive functioning skills evolve and mature through the early lifespan, and it is helpful for our clients to know what is generally expected at certain age ranges so that families can offer their children appropriate tasks that match their child's abilities in addition to offering the appropriate supports when it is time for a child to stretch their skills (for example: going into a new school year or learning a new skill).

Here are a few important milestones for you to consider as you think about your child's strengths and areas of challenge. If you feel like your child is having challenges with the areas listed below, please consult with us today! Your therapist is a great place to start.


Milestones of Note:

- In infancy (before 1 year), children remember recently hidden objects such a toy under a blanket, strategize how to get toys out of reach, and refrain from touching something they have been warned about such as an electrical outlet.

- Between 3-5 years of age, children can keep 2-3 different rules in mind, adapt and apply certain rules for different contexts (i.e. leaving shoes on at school, but taking them off at home), and start to learn delayed gratification.

- Between 6-11 years old, children remember to search for a lost object in a different room, develop flexible thinking so they can set goals and change strategies as needed (i.e. yelling on the playground, but not in the class), and tune-out distracting visual stimulation in order to maintain focus.

- Between 12-18 years old, adolescents remember the main points of a teacher's lecture, learn note-taking, learn times when it is appropriate to use slang or be more formal, and manage to focus their attention on more complex tasks in the classroom.

If you have questions about your child's ability to follow directions, manage their time, organize their work and play space, or control impulses when stressed or frustrated, we are here to help. Skills on the Hill has the experience, the tools, and the programs to support children reaching their maximum level of independence and potential as they engage in the activities they need and want to do! Click here to learn more about our executive function supports.


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