Executive Functions

8 Executive Function Books Parents Need to Read

Help your child or teen with ADHD improve their working memory, time management, focus, and other executive functions by checking out these recommended books.

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Executive Function Books You Need to Read

Organizing a bedroom closet, completing a homework assignment, or planning a birthday party may seem straightforward, but for a child with ADHD and executive dysfunction, such tasks can cause overwhelm and stress — or worse: an inconsolable meltdown. This is due to poor executive function (the cognitive or mental abilities that enable us to get stuff done), which often accompanies ADHD. Children with ADHD who have executive function deficits may find following directions, managing time, adapting to change, remembering multiple steps, and staying on task difficult.

To begin understanding how to improve executive function skills, check out these recommended books, which contain skill-building strategies, expert advice, games, tips, and tricks to strengthen your children’s executive function skills, confidence, and resilience.

[Free Download: Common Executive Function Challenges — and Solutions]

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"Your Kid's Gonna Be Okay: Building the Executive Function Skills Your Child Needs in the Age of Attention”

Your Kid's Gonna Be Okay feels more like a conversation with a friend than a non-fiction book about executive function. Author Michael Delman uses humor, wit, and optimism to connect the role of executive function with academic success and resilience. In place of textbook jargon, Delman shares personal anecdotes about his childhood and time as a teacher, parent, and coach, all of which make the book engaging and relatable for parents of tweens and teens.

Your Kid's Gonna Be Okay delves into timely topics like gaming addiction, time-sucking activities, and test anxiety to illustrate how executive dysfunction manifests in youth. He clarifies that behavior and habits can change and provides a blueprint with tips for managing anxiety, distractions, and more.

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“Focus and Thrive: Executive Functioning Strategies for Teens: Tools to Get Organized, Plan Ahead, and Achieve Your Goals”

Teenagers who want to work smarter, not harder (and any parent or clinician who wants to help them) will enjoy Focus and Thrive. Author Laurie Chaikind McNulty, LCSW-C, breaks the book into three easy-to-read sections: “The Deal with Executive Functioning,” “Strategies to Help You Succeed,” and “Executive Skills Q&A,” which are delivered in a laid-back, conversational tone.

She doesn’t talk down to teens but empowers them to make positive life changes. “Life Hacks” and included checklists, tools, and templates like the “Sampler Study Planner” and “Self-Monitoring Reminder” reinforce this by giving teens the tools they need to succeed.

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[Free Download: The Ultimate Executive Function Guide]

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“Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary ‘Executive Skills’ Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential”

The book that launched the series Smart but Scattered remains the definitive volume on executive function skills in children. Don’t be intimidated by the book’s 314 pages; its wealth of information need not be consumed at once. Smart but Scattered, written by Peg Dawson, Ed.D., and Richard Guare, Ph.D., is best used as an on-hand reference for specific topics, such as “Ready-Made Plans for Teaching Your Child to Complete Daily Routines” to “Working with School” (IEP and 504 Plans).

The real value of Smart but Scattered can be found in quizzes for parents of children ages 4-13. Take them to better understand your child’s executive function strengths and weaknesses — and your own. Comparing your quiz results with your child’s will provide insights as to why you both struggle to leave the house on time or become so irritated by your child’s messy bedroom.

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“Executive Functioning Workbook for Kids: A Fun Adventure with Bora the Space Cat to Learn How to Plan, Prioritize, and Set Goals in Everyday Life”

The Executive Functioning Workbook for Kids is no ordinary, monotonous fill-in-the-blank workbook that bores kids to sleep. It’s hardly a workbook at all but a light-hearted story of Bora the Space Cat’s adventures by Roy D. Phan, Ph.D. Under the guise of Bora’s visits to different planets, readers ages 9-12 will strengthen their planning, prioritization, and problem-solving skills by completing missions, such as collecting crystals for portals and helping cute space animals. (What kid doesn’t like portals and adorable furry friends?). Maps throughout the book show a reader’s progress and provide words of encouragement to keep them engaged — and learning.

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[Self-Test: Could Your Child Have an Executive Function Deficit?]

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“Scattered to Focused: Smart Strategies to Improve Your Child's Executive Functioning Skills”

Both parents and teachers will benefit from reading Scattered to Focused, a comprehensive guide to executive function strategies written by a former elementary teacher turned ADHD specialist. Author Zac Grisham M.S., LPC-S, ADHD-CCSP, fills the book’s pages with expert advice and actionable plans (e.g., using code words or making memory boards) to help children build the skills they need to thrive at school and home. Included are notes on “What to Avoid” when working with a child and “School Support” when advocating for a child, a nice bonus feature.

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“The Executive Functioning Workbook for Teens: Help for Unprepared, Late, and Scattered Teens”

From handling frustration to notetaking in class, The Executive Functioning Workbook for Teens helps adolescents better understand their executive function disorder (EFD) and how to cope effectively. Author Sharon A. Hansen MSE, NBCT, a licensed school counselor, offers practical tips backed by evidence-based research. Each chapter addresses an area of EFD and provides steps for improving flexibility in thinking, sustaining attention, organizing, planning, enhancing memory, managing emotions, and building self-awareness.

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[Self-Test: Do You Know What the Signs of Executive Function Disorder (EFD)?]

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“Executive Functioning Workbook for Kids: 40 Fun Activities to Build Memory, Flexible Thinking, and Self-Control Skills at Home, in School, and Beyond (Health and Wellness Workbooks for Kids)” by Sharon Grand Ph.D., BCN

Managing executive functioning deficits is no easy task, especially if you are a child with ADHD. This author, a clinical psychologist, understands this and provides a gentle, practical approach to explaining executive function.

The Executive Functioning Workbook for Kids includes 40 hands-on activities that are challenging for children ages 6-9 but not intimidating. Brain-training tasks will boost children’s working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. The insightful “Managing My Emotions with My Family” section explains with care why children with executive function weaknesses have difficulty with self-regulation and what they can do about it.

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[Free Download: Executive Dysfunctions in the Classroom]

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”Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning” by Joyce Cooper-Kahn and Laurie Dietzel

Written by clinical psychologists, Late, Lost, and Unprepared emphasizes a two-pronged approach to improving executive functioning. Part I, “What You Need to Know,” provides an overview of executive function and how weak executive function affects a child’s development and emotional life. Part II, “What You Can Do About It,” describes how to change behaviors and set reasonable expectations for children. Case studies and suggested strategies round out this thorough guidebook.

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Executive Function Books: Next Steps


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