Lately, I have been dealing with an insurance company and they asked me, ” Are you working on language vs executive function with your client?” I was stumped? My client has Asperger’s syndrome, so of course, I am working on both, so I wondered, “How do I answer this question?” We want to compartmentalize everything. As if one thing is completely separate from another. I can take a vitamin A and its easier than eating a carrot, but a carrot offers more nutrition than a vitamin A pill. However, no one will get rich from selling carrots, but selling vitamins is a multi-million dollar industry. Even though a carrot is more nutritious because it is a more complex combination of vitamins, fiber and other nutrients we have been convinced that taking the pill with one element is healthy. This question comes out of the need to place a monetary value on components in order to make the most money. The simple truth is language is complex, and of course, executive function skills and language skills are intertwined. So, back to the question are you working with language vs executive function skills? My answer, both!
Language vs executive function skills are not components that can be separated because they are intimately tied together. A language disorder is defined by having persistent problems using and understanding different modes of communication, including speaking, writing, sign language or reading, that limit the ability to share thoughts and ideas with others. Executive function is a set of skills that allow people to get things done. Some people categorize executive function skills into 3 areas; working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control. In order to use language to communicate, we must have the ability to plan, prioritize, organize, and initiate communication with another person. For example, we use language, self-talk, to think through a plan and help us get through a task. We also have to plan to use language in social situations. For example, we might think, “What should I say when I walk into my class or meeting?” Although there is a push to separate language vs executive function in schools and by insurance companies, it’s not possible to separate the two, language and executive function skills work together and result in our ability to communicate as well as do other tasks.