Common Challenges At School

Completing Tasks and Executive Functioning

Autistic girls have a different profile of cognitive skills that must be recognised and accommodated when they are undertaking academic work at school and home. One aspect of the profile is impaired Executive Function.19 Autistic girls may have difficulty planning, organising and prioritising, have a need for supervision and guidance and need help determining what is relevant and redundant. They may need help with time perception and time management. Impaired Executive Function can significantly impact the ability of autistic girls to learn and engage in busy school environments.20

Ebony Birch Hanger is a Teacher, Neurodevelopmental Therapist, Education Consultant and Music Specialist. In this video Ebony talks about executive functioning and how to recognise and accommodate autistic girls in a class setting

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The often hidden or invisible need in the classroom is helping our girls with their executive functioning. The mind's inner 'personal assistant' is often in need of help to support our girls with organisation to help girls reach their full potential.


Many girls struggle with issues with planning and prioritising, and can be misunderstood as being lazy or as simply procrastinating. If you dig deeper, you may see that she is overwhelmed and simply freezes and does nothing. On the other hand, many autistic girls can be perfectionists and have a real strength in this area.

Adult Female

During my later years at school when it came to completing more complicated tasks, I would often ask for clarification more often than my peers. Because of this, I had the reputation of being precise and detail orientated amongst my peers, but the fact was that I struggled with starting and completing a task without knowing all the moving parts. I would often get bogged down in the detail, not being able sift through what was relevant and important and as a result I would rarely finish work on time. I was then often misunderstood as being a procrastinator or lazy by my teachers. If only I had known that my executive functioning was a big part to play in this, and if I had developed better strategies to support this, I believe I would have had greater learning achievements.

Further recommendations on this topic

19. Attwood 2007 20. Manjiviona, J. 2003.