Type: Review
Pages: 4 | Words: 945
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There is a significant number of issues that special education focuses on nowadays. As the body of knowledge continues to grow from study to study, there still seems to be enough grey area to explore. One of the current issues in the field is the discussion of executive functions and the situation when there is a deficit of those. Different age groups are being studied and various co-existing factors influencing executive functions impairments are identified. The two studies at hand focus on adolescents and preschool children, with each of those discussing the executive functions deficit in one way or the other. The articles have a slightly different focus but both of them are concerned to children or adolescents who have conduct problems. While there are some evident similarities and differences between the two studies described both of them make a strong case for their respective claims and, therefore, have much value for the field of special education.

Both articles focus their attention on subjects who have aggressive behavior problems. Hummer et al. (2011) talks about adolescents with Disruptive Behavior Disorders (DBD), namely conduct disorder (CD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), as two most commonly diagnosed disorders within the DBD category. Raaijmakers et al. (2008) examines the relation between executive functions and DBDs in preschool children. Also, both studies discuss the situation when attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is present together with DBDs. The articles are similar in a sense that both of them try to shed light on the issue that is under-researched at present time. However, there are also some significant differences between these two bodies of work.

Significantly, the researchers were rather in different situations with their projects. The study conducted on adolescents was more narrowly focused and had a more strictly defined aim. Specifically, the hypothesis of the study was that only adolescents with comorbid ADHD would display impairments in executive functions while those who had DBD without comorbid ADHD would not be different from the healthy control group (Hummer et al., 2011). On the other hand, the study on preschool children was at a slight disadvantage because there is no much previous research done on this age group. Therefore, the aim of the study was more general, that is to determine whether there is a correlation between aggressive behavior and deficits in executive functioning (Raaijmakers et al., 2008).

Guided by their separate hypotheses, two studies reached different results. This is, in fact, an interesting issue. The study on preschool children concluded that there is a relationship between the aggressive behavior and inhibition. It also found the great disparity in results based on gender. Girls tended to outperform boys on all six neuropsychological tests. However, no evidence was found as to the relation of executive functions deficits to attentions disorders (Raaijmakers et al., 2008). Contrary to this, Hummer et al. (2011) is confident in his findings that adolescents with DBD and comorbid ADHD show worse results in executive functions than subjects with only DBD. These contradicting results provoke a lot of questions. There are obviously many differences between the studies, but the underlying issue they try to clarify is similar. That is why one is pushed to the opinion that within the special education field there is an immense amount of variables; and even with the slightest deviation in the construct the study might yield completely different results.

The special education field can benefit a lot from the studies discussed. Based on the information presented professionals working with special needs children and teens can find more appropriate strategies to tackle a variety of issues. One of the most valuable aspects of the studies is that both of them try to clarify the underlying reasons for particular behaviors or impairments and sometimes even point out what should be done at the very bottom level to change the future results. So, by addressing behavioral problems from early childhood it might be possible to prevent future aggressive behavior in children.

A rich array of specific instruments used in the studies can be of much value to the researchers and other field practitioners. One might compare the way that the subjects were obtained, the tests used in the process, and the results that they yielded. It seems more convincing if the research uses a comprehensive set of tests. The study on adolescents used questionnaires, neurocognitive tests, and interviews. The primary caregivers also completed the questionnaires (Hummer et al., 2011). In this way, the data obtained is likely to be more descriptive and accurate. In the study conducted in preschool children virtually all the neuropsychological tests had to be adjusted because they were initially designed for an older age group. Moreover, as it turned out, only the inhibition out of all executive functions was worth examining at this age (Raaijmakers et al., 2008). All these indicate that there is a huge difference between younger children and teenagers. Even though the problem at hand is similar the way to approach it is not the same. Executive functions impairments have to be looked at in the age-specific context; this is an important fact to remember for the special education specialists.

With just even these two researches special needs education can make a step forward in understanding particular processes underlying the visible issues. By being able to identify the core reasons for one or the other problem the educator will be able to address it more effectively. For instance, by being aware whether executive functions deficit is caused by attention disorder or disruptive behavior disorder they will be able to manage attention problems or focus more on behavioral problems. Furthermore, knowledge of age-specific characteristics of learners with executive functions deficits will allow for a more meaningful treatment.

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