This is the “new paradigm” for understanding ADHD, as described by Dr. Thomas E. Brown in A New Understanding of ADHD in Children and Adults.

Just today I was speaking with some older adults who still believe the “old paradigm” – that ADHD is a behavior disorder. The activities of ADHD Awareness Month provide opportunities to educate and inform individuals about the current understanding of ADHD.

We now know that far from being just a disorder of behavior, it is a brain-based, neurodevelopmental disorder that shows up primarily in impairment of what Dr. Brown calls “the cognitive management system of the human brain,” the executive functions.

There is no universally accepted way of describing the executive functions. Dr. Brown breaks them into six categories: activation, focus, effort, emotion, memory, and action. Other experts and researchers have identified more than thirty or forty different functions. I like the list of twelve executive functions that are described by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare in Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents and their “Smart but Scattered” books.

On each of the next twelve days, one of the twelve Guare and Dawson executive functions listed below will be described in an ADHD Fact.

  • Response Inhibition
  • Working Memory
  • Emotional Control
  • Flexibility
  • Sustained Attention
  • Task Initiation
  • Planning/Prioritization
  • Organization
  • Time Management
  • Goal-Directed Persistence
  • Metacognition
  • Stress Tolerance


Linda Swanson is an ADHD Coach in Warrenton, Virginia. She and her husband, Neil, are partners at Free To Be Coaching, LLC, where they coach in person or by phone, Skype, or FaceTime. They coach students from middle school through college as well as adults of all ages, and they also facilitate two support groups for parents of children with ADHD. Linda and Neil are both graduates of the ADD Coach Academy and are credentialed by the International Coach Federation and the Professional Association of ADHD Coaches. Linda can be reached at or (703) 508-4774. 

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