Date of Award/Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

MS in Special Education



First Supervisor

Susan Schultz


Autism affects 1in 66 children and that comes with a lot of frustration for children and their families. Some families will see the largest difficulty when their child enters the education system. High functioning individuals will have skills that will have educators wondering what is happening to their student who seems to be able to understand and complete the work in a school environment. What is talk about in small amounts is executive functioning and its challenges that occurs with individuals with autism. Executive function is a theory that is broken down into 7 different components that individuals will have challenges with. It’s imperative that educators understand executive functioning deficits and then implement strategies that can be used in the classroom and generalized into their home environment. It’s important to understand how the components work individually and to make connections between and how they can affect each other. My research enabled me to find what school psychologist do when they need to test for executive functioning using the BRIEF, if the BRIEF is reliable and how the results from the BRIEF inform their implementation of strategies for students with executive functioning deficits. Understanding what executive function theory is and how it effects individuals is the first step in giving them the skills to be successful. Keywords: planning, organization, inhibition, self-monitoring, working memory, set-shifting, and flexibility. As the prevalence of autism rises among the population there is a big push to find what causes autism. There is a number of theories that try to explain what autism is and what the leading causes and deficits are. It is very difficult to read all the research and to filter out what is good research and what is not. There was a theory that has been recently debunked that implied that giving children vaccinations is what causes autism, we now know that is untrue, even though many parents still believe that theory. One theory that has shown some promise, but is not a singular cause is the theory of executive functioning. This is not a new theory but one that I feel is overlooked at times, certainly it is not discussed among the public and is not reported in the news. I know from my research and from interacting with students with autism it is certainly something that needs to be addressed. I know that my daughter certainly has difficulty with some aspects of executive function skills and that it is more likely to be addressed in the schools, but not necessarily identified as executive function deficits. There are a number on components that make up executive functioning that include planning, flexibility, inhibition, generativity, self-monitoring, working memory, and organization. Understanding and knowing what the components are and how they affect individuals with autism, will make it easier to find supports for them. In my research study, I sent out surveys that gathered data regarding an assessment, the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) that directly assess executive function deficits. It not only identifies what the areas of need are but it also offers suggestions to help individuals be successful. I sent a survey to twelve (12) psychologists in various schools in upstate New York. I have a daughter who was given the BRIEF through her school, upon our request, and it did report back that she had some significant delays in some areas. I have noticed how my daughter has difficulty that can be related to her executive functioning deficits.

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