Cognitive Flexibility

There are eleven main Executive Functions (EF). The third core Executive Function is the flexibility of thought. 

Cognitive flexibility – thinking ‘outside the box,’ seeing things from different perspectives, and quickly and flexibly adapting to changed circumstances. 

Cognitive flexibility, a graphic of a signpost with many directions.
Cognitive flexibility

So, what does that mean in real life and how does it impact our ability to cope in the real world? 

Some people have excellent cognitive flexibility and are ‘big picture’ thinkers and are those who can really ‘think outside the box. They thrive and shine in these situations in comparison to most. However, for others, especially those on the Autistic Spectrum, dealing with ever-changing circumstances causes difficulties and a great deal of stress. 

I am one of the lucky ones; despite having many other EF issues, this Cognitive Flexibility is one that I am not hampered by. Whilst I, like most people, would actually prefer some level of stability, I do have that Neurodiverse superpower of big, unusual and creative thinking. I have more recently found ways to harness this creativity and enjoy the problem solving and analytical thinking that I can do. 

Nevertheless, brains have a unique ability to change and learn new methods; we call this ‘neuroplasticity.’ Our EFs are not cast in stone and how we will be for life. With the right kind of support and time, it is possible to strengthen EFs and reduce their impact on daily lives. 

Within a tuition format, we can help to scaffold pupils and model flexible thinking and resilience to deal with an unknown situation. With this modelling and guidance, pupils can begin to experience a change in a safe and supportive way. Sharing these situations regularly can start to help the brain slowly change, albeit in very small steps. 

Several organisations, such as specialise in helping children and adults strengthen their Executive Functions. 

If you haven’t read about the first two core Executive Functions click here

#executivefunction #neurodiversity #mathsanxiety #cognitiveflexibility

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