Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

An Investigation of the Academic Processing Speed of Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders Served in Public School Settings

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

An Investigation of the Academic Processing Speed of Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders Served in Public School Settings

Article excerpt

Abstract

Little is known about the academic processing speed (i.e., rapid automatic naming and academic fluency) of children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) served in public school settings. A cross-sectional design was used to investigate the (a) percentage of K-12 students with EBD served in public school settings with academic processing speed deficits; (b) mean level and stability of academic processing speed exhibited by K-12 students with EBD served in public school settings; (c) differences in the academic skills, IQ, social adjustment, and language skills of students with and without processing speed deficits; and (d) the relative contribution of academic processing speed, academic skills, and language to the prediction of the social adjustment problems (i.e., total, externalizing, internalizing, and attention). Results indicated that: (a) a majority of the sample (57%) of students with EBD exhibited academic processing speed deficits; (b) the overall academic fluency standard score was more than three-fourths of a standard deviation below the mean for the norm group; (c) statistically significant differences were found between students with and without processing speed deficits across IQ language, academic achievement, and social adjustment measures; and (d) with one exception (i.e., internalizing problems), academic fluency predicted all social adjustment domains and predicted total and attention problems above and beyond language or academic skills. Limitations, implications, and areas of future research are discussed.

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Research into characteristics of children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) that impact school performance continues to inform the field. For example, in recent years we have gained insights into the nature of the language and achievement deficits that tend to co-exist with the emotional and behavioral difficulties of the nearly 500,000 students with EBD served in U.S. public schools (U.S. Department of Education, 2001). However, there remain areas related to school performance for students with EBD that merit attention. One of these areas is cognitive processing speed, which is the time required to process academic information. Adequate processing speed enables learners to perform basic tasks such as word reading or math computation without conscious effort, thereby allowing the learner to focus more attention on the more complex tasks of comprehending text or solving math problems. Understanding the nature of the processing speed of students with EBD may have direct implications on the type and intensity of academic intervention recommended by school personnel. We begin with a discussion of the language skills and academic functioning of students with EBD.

Across areas of language and academic functioning, students with EBD lag behind their peers without verified handicapping conditions. In the area of language functioning, for example, Nelson, Benner, and Cheney (2005) reported that 68% of a cross-sectional population of public school students with EBD experienced clinical language deficits. Specifically, the percentage of students who scored below the mean of the norm group on standardized measures of total language, receptive language, and expressive language, were 85%, 77%, and 89%, respectively. Moreover, Nelson et al. (2005) found that students with EBD who exhibited externalizing problem behaviors (i.e., aggression, delinquent, attention problems) were more likely to experience language deficits than students who evidenced internalizing problem behaviors. These findings from cross-sectional research corroborate earlier results from a systematic review of the literature (i.e., Benner, Nelson, & Epstein, 2002) indicating that as many as 9 out of 10 children with EBD served in public school settings may have language deficits. Taken together, research suggests that not only do EBD and language deficits co-occur at a relatively high rate, but that the externalizing problem behaviors of students with EBD appear to be related to language functioning. …

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