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Fostering Executive Functions with Children with Special Educational Needs

Prof. Dr. Minna Törmänen at HfH. (Foto: HfH Zürich) At the Forschungskolloquium Prof. Dr. Minna Törmänen gave an insight into her study results. (Foto: HfH)

Being able to focus, hold, and work with information in mind, and filter distractions: Executive Functions (EFs) refer to use of a set of interrelated cognitive functions that control and guide behavior, thoughts and emotions. EFs are widely recognized to play an essential role not only for children’s cognitive, social, and motor development, but EFs are also predictors for school success. Today, there is a growing interest to explore the role EFs and their impact on learning, especially with children who have Special Educational Needs (SEN).

During the Forschungskolloquium from 24th September 2019 results from studies fostering EF with cognitive and curriculum-based interventions in addition to varying study designs were discussed. An international perspective had a central role; studies have been conducted in different European countries within varying educational systems. Importantly, the starting point for all studies have been that they were realized in school setting following ideology of inclusive education. Used interventions were found to be suitable for special needs education.

According to results interventions have been mostly beneficial for persons with Learning Disabilities, like dyslexia, SLI and AD/HD, in addition to severe learning disabilities, like Down syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorders and developmental disabilities. In addition to intervention effects, there were findings of transfer effects on academic achievements and persons with SEN showed more protective factors having better self-confidence and individual strengths. However, it was strongly emphasized that the diversity and comorbidity among persons with SEN should be taken into account on used analyses and conclusions of the results; not only in these studies, but intervention studies of SEN in general.

Concerning EFs there was interesting discussion in Forschungskolloquium on different definitions of EFs and importantly, how to measure EFs with children and adolescents who have Special Educational Needs. Also, developmental aspects were discussed: When and how is the proper way to use interventions and certain study designs. It was concluded that more research on EF of persons with SEN is needed, taken also individual differences into consideration. And more interventions for children and adolescents with SEN are needed.

About Prof. Dr. Minna Törmänen: In January 2019 she started to work as guest professor at HfH in Institute for Professionalization and System Development Link zur Institutsseite. However, she is also having a position at University of Helsinki, Finland. Her research profile is multidisciplinary and international, and research interests lie in development and individual learning and educational capabilities within persons from early education to adult education having special educational needs. The core for her research interests are in learning processes and especially in cognitive processing, like executive functioning, and importantly, in research-based practices i.e. interventions. Besides multidisciplinary research on learning competences and its background factors, she has applied her research in the field of inclusive education.

More about Prof. Dr. Minna Törmänen in the article from HfHnews of March 2019: Go to article Link Bericht Minna Törmänen

Scientific Exchange

From 22nd to 25th October 2019 Prof. Minna Törmänen is organizing together with Prof. Dr. Monika T. Wicki an international workshop entitled: «Inclusive Education and Special Needs Educational Governance in European Countries – Scientific exchange for comparative analysis». Key experts are invited to come to HfH. Learn more about the Scientific Exchange and registration Link Agenda Scientific Exchange

 

Author: Minna Törmänen, Prof. Dr., HfH Link Mitarbeiterübersicht Minna Törmänen

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