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Navigating Lagging Executive Function Skills and Developmental Age in Children with ADHD


Dr Ross Greene, a distinguished clinical child psychologist, introduced the notion of "lagging skills" within the context of children grappling with behavioural and emotional challenges.


In the roles of parents, caregivers, and educators, we often observe that children with ADHD exhibit distinct cognitive differences that set them apart from their peers. A critical domain where these disparities become evident is in their executive function skills. These skills encompass a spectrum of mental processes that facilitate goal-oriented behaviours, including planning, organisation, attention, and self-regulation. Yet, delving into the realm of ADHD unveils a pivotal concept known as the "lagging skills" phenomenon, shedding light on the chasm between a child's chronological age and developmental age.


Navigating the Complexity of Executive Function Skills:

Think of executive function skills as the conductors of a mental orchestra, orchestrating and directing various cognitive processes to help us achieve our objectives effectively. For children with ADHD, these skills might lag behind their peers, making everyday tasks like completing assignments, following instructions, or even getting ready in the morning substantially challenging.

Children with ADHD frequently exhibit a developmental gap, implying that their executive function skills might align more closely with their developmental age than their chronological age

The Insightful Perspective of Lagging Skills:

Dr Ross Greene, a distinguished clinical child psychologist, introduced the notion of "lagging skills" within the context of children grappling with behavioural and emotional challenges. His emphasis lies in the idea that challenging behaviour often emanates from a child's struggle to perform crucial skills rather than a mere inclination to misbehave.


In the case of children with ADHD, these lagging skills can manifest diversely. Struggles with planning and organisation can lead to forgetfulness, missed deadlines, and difficulties in task completion. Impaired emotional regulation might result in outbursts or difficulties managing frustration. Compromised working memory might hinder their ability to navigate multi-step instructions.


Visualise a child with ADHD who is chronologically 10 years old but operates at an executive function level resembling that of a 7-year-old.

Harmonising Developmental Age and Chronological Age:

Children with ADHD frequently exhibit a developmental gap, implying that their executive function skills might align more closely with their developmental age than their chronological age. Visualise a child with ADHD who is chronologically 10 years old but operates at an executive function level resembling that of a 7-year-old. This distinction between chronological and developmental age is pivotal, as it guides our expectations and interventions.


Unveiling the Potential of Support and Interventions:

Grasping the concept of lagging executive function skills and comprehending a child's developmental age with ADHD can fundamentally transform how we approach their education and daily life. Rather than expecting behaviours or performance beyond their capabilities, we can adopt an empathetic and patient stance.


Adapting interventions to their developmental age enables us to deconstruct complex tasks into manageable steps. Through visual cues, structured routines, and consistent reminders, we bolster the development of their executive function skills. Collaborating with educators and mental health professionals aids in forging an inclusive and nurturing environment that fosters their growth.



With patience, education, and empathy as our compass, we ensure that these children reach their full potential and embark on an empowered and individualised journey of growth.

Comprehending the concept of lagging executive function skills and recognising the gap between a child's chronological and developmental age plays a pivotal role in supporting children with ADHD. By acknowledging and addressing their distinct needs, we create an atmosphere that empowers them to cultivate vital life skills and flourish academically and emotionally. With patience, education, and empathy as our compass, we ensure that these children reach their full potential and embark on an empowered and individualised journey of growth.

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