Winter 2017

Assessing self-control

Stephanie Carlson and Phil Zelazo have developed a tool for evaluating children's executive functioning skills.
Photography by Jayme Halbritter

Stephanie Carlson and Phil Zelazo, professors in the U of M’s Institute of Child Development (ICD), know that the ability to control our thoughts, actions, and emotions also allows us to pay attention, listen, and follow directions—a process known as “executive function.”

Together, they developed a simple tool to help caregivers and teachers assess such function in young children. “You read these alarming statistics of diagnoses with attention-deficit disorders or learning disabilities when it’s likely some of these kids just haven’t had the opportunity yet to develop executive function skills,” says Zelazo, who is the Nancy M. and John E. Lindahl Professor in the ICD.