Personal Growth

Helping Students With Executive Functioning Challenges Write Better

May 28, 2022

Learning Strategies for Students With Executive Functioning Issues

If you are a student that struggles to focus and complete assignments because of executive functioning challenges, you might feel helpless. If you are a parent, you might think your child is being lazy or simply cannot perform the way other students do. Sometimes students have little guidance about writing assignments, such as admissions essays that typically only include a prompt. Other times professors might give a one- or two-page document to provide guidelines for a writing assignment. Either situation can be overwhelming, and leave students with executive functioning challenges and uncertain about where to start. Lack of a plan to complete an assignment often leads to poor essays or the inability to finish an essay.

Whether you are a student or a parent, you need to know that not all hope is lost. Students with executive function challenges can succeed and can become quality writers. Succeeding requires slowing things down or breaking longer tasks down into more manageable pieces, referred to as scaffolding. This refers to giving a specific amount of time for each part of an assignment instead of giving students one large deadline. Other learning strategies for students with executive functioning issues include using a daily planner or calendar for assignments and homework to develop a routine and asking for or receiving clear expectations about the assignment or task you need to complete.

Breaking Down Writing Assignments for students With Executive Functioning Challenges With Outline

Our team has worked with several students who struggle with executive functioning issues and helped them improve their writing. Our method of brainstorming, outlining, and drafting, helps students complete their college essay assignments efficiently and productively. Outline has four steps to the writing process, breaking it down into manageable pieces for students who struggle with executive functioning. They include:

Idea Matrix

Your main dashboard is the idea matrix. Students start with a broad brainstorming exercise based on their assignments. This might include brainstorming broad paper topics or specific paper topics, depending on the scope of your assignment. For example, you might have to write a paper about an important historical event, so you would brainstorm events. In a more specific case, you might need to brainstorm to write a paper about one of the wars that occurred in the Americas during a particular period. Ultimately, this exercise allows students to put down any ideas regarding their essays.


During the next phase of Outline's writing process, selection, students pick the ideas they want to include in their essays. Teachers and professors typically provide a rubric for writing assignments that include specific required elements. Whether an educator uses Outline to provide the rubric, a student with executive functioning challenges can use it to help them choose the ideas from their brainstorming exercise that need to be in their essay.


After choosing the ideas to include in their essays, students need to order their ideas. Organization can be especially difficult for those with executive functioning issues, so this step is not only a broader part of breaking down the writing process, but it helps students organize their ideas. This is key to creating cogent and succinct essays with success. Students can delete ideas, group them together, and add more ideas, too.


Creating a strong outline before writing an essay is the final crucial step for producing quality essays. Outlining creates a quality foundation for an essay from which a strong thesis emerges. The previous steps of Outline's writing process help students create a quality outline leading to a strong essay. During the structure part of the process, Outline's software helps students craft summaries of their main points to serve as the basis of their essay outline. Students order their main points and the software helps connect them with transition words, tying together separate ideas into a cohesive piece of writing.

Outline Helps Students With Executive Functioning Challenges

Visit our website to learn more about how Outline works. Breaking the writing process down into small steps allows those with executive functioning challenges to improve their writing skills. These struggles do not have to keep you from attending college or graduate school. You can learn to tackle admissions essays, college writing assignments, and graduate-level writing assignments with the foundational guidance provided by Outline. Contact us to learn more.