In an article in “Psychology Today” in 2011, Dr. Thomas E. Brown said: “ADD has nothing to do with how smart a person is. Some individuals with ADD are super-smart on IQ tests, many score in the average range, and some are much lower.”

Challenges folks with ADHD have in school and work have to do with their inability to get things done, not their intelligence. Their difficulties are usually because of deficiencies in the area of executive functions. It doesn’t matter how smart you are if you never turn in your homework, or if your paperwork for your job is always at least a month late being completed.

Peg Dawson and Richard Guare in their “Smart But Scattered” books and others of their writings identify twelve different executive functions (some people identify more and others identify fewer). Guare and Dawson’s list contains the following:

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

Each of those executive functions has been addressed in an earlier blog post in this series for ADHD Awareness Month 2016 at It can be helpful to know which functions cause you or your child or spouse difficulties and which can be depended upon to help. Guare and Dawson have an online screening tool for adults here, and for students here. (The teen version was written before Guare and Dawson added “stress tolerance” as one of their executive functions.)

If you have ADHD or suspect you or someone else might, it can be helpful to learn which brain functions are strongest and which are weakest. Just remember that in the same article Dr. Brown also says: “Data . . . . show that individuals can have very high IQ and still suffer significant impairments in each of these executive functions that are essential for working effectively and for getting along with other people.”


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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