Executive Function and Child Development

Executive Function & Child Development Yeager & Yeager

New York: W. W. Norton, 2013


As an educational psychologist working in Hong Kong the term executive function often comes up. This term talks about cognitive and thinking functions that are typically impaired in children with ADHD, autism spectrum disorders and dyslexia. The presentation of difficulties with executive function differs from child to child. Because this term is used by educators with more frequency is important for parents and professionals to have a more in-depth understanding of executive function.


Executive Function & Child Development is a concise text written by a psychotherapist couple who document their assessment and treatment practices for children who have difficulties with ‘so called’ executive function.  Early in the book the authors acknowledge the limitations to the concept of executive function and its lack of consensus, even amongst its strongest advocates and founders.  They do this with an accessible tone and balance of complexity that does the notoriously vague neuropsychological concept justice.


The authors settle upon and advocate Barkley’s model of ‘executive’ function and use this model as a way of understanding predominantly younger and ‘middle childhood’ children with ADHD diagnoses.  Unfortunately I found, for purely selfish reasons, the discussed client group somewhat disappointingly narrow, as I found applying some of the recommendations to my work with older children with autism sometimes problematic.  However, the interventions did provoke creative thought as I became interested in how the authors used some of Vygotsky’s learning theories and applied them through the process of play in order to take advantage of brain plasticity and develop such executive functions as impulse control and attention shifting.


Some of the authors’ suggestions did no more than draw parallels with such standard behavioural practice as visual schedules and planning charts; however, for any child-focused professionals interested in centring heir psychological formulations, assessments and interventions around executive function, this book fits the bill.