Executive Functions (EF) include high-order cognitive processes that control, manage, plan cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functions aimed at achieving a goal. EF are required for monitoring and adapting your behavior to new contextual conditions. They can be thought of as the set of skills necessary to voluntarily guide behavior aimed at a goal, especially in new and unusual situations.
Different sub domains of the EF may exist, some of which are defined as nuclear or basic:
- working memory;
- interference control;
- cognitive flexibility, which includes creativity and ability to adapt quickly and flexibly to changing external circumstances (Diamond, 2013).
These Nuclear EF are the basis of other top-level EF such as reasoning, problem solving, and planning.
A large literature suggests that in children with neuro-developmental disorders, some EF sub-domains may be compromised. In particular, children with Language Disorder often show poorer skills than typical developmental peers in evidence that evaluates work memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility.
Increasing attention to the study of EF has helped generate evaluation tools that can be used since the preschool age.
Detecting the behavior of children in relation to their EF can be achieved by standardized neuropsychological tests administered in a structured situation, or through systematic observation of the behavior of children in different life contexts.