Focus, Organize, and Succeed: An Executive Functioning Toolkit that Works

Written by Mary Pembleton
Based on a Webinar by Diana Petschauer

Young boy running with drawings of school things behind him

Trouble paying attention. Disorganization. Difficulty getting started.

These are just some of the signs that a child struggles with executive function deficits.

Executive function refers to the higher-level activities our brains must do to coordinate and manage our thinking and behavior. Executive function deficits can have many different causes: ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and brain injury are just a few.

Kids may feel frustrated, anxious, apathetic or ashamed when they lack one or more executive function skills. And educators and parents may not know the best way to offer support.

Student looking at the sky with letters falling like rain

Executive function skills used in learning include:

  • working memory
  • time management
  • organizing and planning tasks
  • maintaining focus
  • working memory
  • stress tolerance
  • managing emotions
Hand with a pencil erasing on a piece of notebook paper

Managing schoolwork without one or more of these skills isn’t easy. But students can learn and work effectively with the right support.

Diana Petschauer, M.Ed, ATP, and Laurie McIntosh, MS, OTR/L, ATP, created an executive function tech toolkit for educators and their learners.

Their list below offers free and paid apps and extensions that help with focus, attention, organization, confidence, and independence.


  1. Google Keep:
    Google Keep is a tool for scheduling and organizing tasks that syncs across all devices.
    Share, collaborate, organize and label lists and reminders by topic. Step-by-step checklists help students that have a hard time with sequencing. Create to-do lists, schedule reminders, and organize class assignments, all in one central location
  2. Tab Snooze:
    Schedule a website, video, or article to open automatically later in the day, and set a reminder with it. Encourages focus and task management.
  3. One Tab:
    Consolidates all open tabs into a single organized list under one tab.
  4. Scrible:
    Highlighting tool that saves highlighted information in a library for easy access and/or sharing.
  5. Visual Timer:
    Assists with time management. Users can select how long they would like to focus and schedule alerts for breaks.
  6. Snap&Read:
    Options for text-to-speech, color masking and highlighting, remove distractions button to remove ads and video from a web page, pull text into an outline with automatic attribution, and graphic organizers for organization.
  7. Marinara: Pomodoro Assistant:
    Another great timer option for time management.
  8. Mindomo:
    Mind mapping/brainstorming app that allows learners to organize thoughts. Options to add notes, create hyperlinks, bring in images and icons, add video and audio.
  9. Holt Interactive Graphic Organizers:
    Editable, digital graphic organizers students can download, save, and share.
  10. Co:Writer:
    Specialized topic-focused word prediction helps writers unstick ideas. Recognizes even the most creative phonetic spelling and speech-to-text and editing help keeps struggling writers on track.
  11. SimpleMind:
    Digital mind-mapping tool with a lot of capabilities, including creating maps from PDF files.
  12. Can Plan:
    Promotes independence with customizable visual, audio, or video step-by-step to-do lists.
    Prompts task sequencing and allows tasks to be scheduled with a reminder across devices.
    Users give rave reviews for this one.
  13. 360 Thinking Time Tracker:
    Visual app for productivity.
    A color-coded clock breaks down tasks into categories: yellow for get ready, green for do, and red for stop. Especially helpful for learners who struggle with transitions.

Need more help with executive function? Watch Diana and Laurie’s Executive Function Toolkit Webinar for more resources and how to use the tools above.

Your Executive Functioning Toolkit—Their Key to Independent Learning

Interested in learning more? Our Executive Function Toolkit Webinar offers detailed visual and audio explanations of how to use the tools listed above, along with further resources.

View the Webinar