Assessment for Sustained Attention – An Executive Function Issue Common with ADHD

Executive function disorder – a condition very common in those with ADHD – refers to difficulties that children and adults have with their “executive functions.” These functions, which include task management, emotional regulation, problem-solving, and many other skills, are important for development. Early intervention can help improve outcomes and give children a better chance of learning ways to improve and address these abilities.

Of all the different executive function skills, “sustained attention” is the one most frequently associated with ADHD and one of the first that someone may notice if they are trying to assess a child’s functioning. As one of the core symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactive disorder, children that are unable to maintain sustained attention can struggle academically and socially. This is why it is so important to identify these challenges early.

Sustained Attention ADHD Checklist

Most young children struggle with attention in some form. This is why it is not typically that simple to go through a yes or no checklist to figure out if a child is successfully managing their attention in academic setting. Instead, it helps to look at someone through a scale to help determine if they are managing these functions properly.

For your reference, we have created a sustained attention scale to help you see what an ADHD specialist might look for if they’re trying to determine if a child struggles with sustained attention. You can download and print the assessment for yourself. Note that this is not an official assessment, and should only be considered for informational purposes only:


Examples of how these may manifest include:

  • A child cannot focus on their work and tries to talk to friends instead.
  • A child may be fidgeting so significantly that they cannot focus on their work.
  • A child may appear to be daydreaming when they are supposed to be focusing.

Once again, it is important to note that many young children, especially elementary school age, can struggle with attention at times. They may also struggle with attention for reasons that are not related to ADHD – for example, the work is harder than they can handle, or they have social anxiety, or they have not slept very well. This is why assessment is typically more than a checklist.

Still, if you pay attention to how your child is acting and reacting in these types of settings, you can typically find yourself better able to identify if there is likely an ADHD or executive function related challenge, and get started on the next steps.

ADHD and Executive Function Coaching at ADHD Training Center

ADHD Training Center provides coaching for ADHD and executive function disorder for both children and their parents. We have classes both in person and remote, and continue to offer more individual and group services for children and teens with ADHD. Learn more by contacting us today.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content