Students with Emotional or Behavioral Disorders

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  • 0:04 Emotional & Behavioral…
  • 1:22 In the Classroom
  • 2:31 Common Disorders
  • 4:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Working with students who have emotional or behavioral disorders requires a unique awareness along with special accommodations. This lesson will explore the issues faced by these students and will end with a brief quiz to see what you have learned.

Emotional & Behavioral Disorders

Most of us can relate to feeling down or blue at some point in our lives. Sometimes when our emotions are out of whack it is tough to complete our normal activities. We may do or say things that we wouldn't normally do. Imagine if you felt like this all the time!

What would it be like to be a student who struggled to control his or her emotions or behaviors? It would certainly make learning and succeeding in school tougher, wouldn't it? Emotional and behavioral disorders are developmental or cognitive impairments that prevent normal functioning. They can cause extreme disturbances in mood or behavior. Students who experience emotional or behavioral disturbances may have problems with education, social relationships, emotional balance, or physical health, and these students may require special education.

When a student is diagnosed with an emotional or behavioral disorder, he or she qualifies for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and this law entitles disabled students to a free and adequate education designed to meet their specific needs. Ten to fifteen percent of students are classified as disabled under this law as a result of emotional and behavioral disorders.

Let's take a closer look at the ways to determine if the student has a disorder and the different types of issues experienced by these students.

In the Classroom

Most students struggle with behavior or academics at some point in their education. How do we know if a behavior is isolated or if it is something more serious? There are few signs to look for in identifying emotional or behavioral disorders.

  • Attention issues: Students may struggle to stay focused in class or may be hyperactive.
  • Acting out: Students may have unusually aggressive behaviors or demonstrate inappropriate emotions, such as excessive laughing or crying.
  • Social problems: Students may find it tough to make or keep friends. They may seem immature or overly mature in relation to their peers.
  • Academic issues: Students may find the work too difficult or too easy. They may fail to complete assignments correctly or at all.

If educators suspect that a student has an emotional or behavioral disorder, they should reach out to the parents and schedule an assessment with a qualified professional, such as a school psychologist. The student will be assessed using a variety of tests and measures designed to identify emotional or behavioral disorders. If issues are found, a special program will be designed to help meet the unique educational needs of the child. This allows for personal, academic, social, and developmental success moving forward.

Common Disorders

Once an emotional or behavioral disorder has been identified in a student, a specific and personalized plan for education must be designed. This is called an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). Most students who receive special education have an IEP. The IEP will vary from student to student depending on their unique impairment. Let's explore some of the more common classroom emotional and behavioral disorders.

Autism spectrum disorders may look very different from child to child. Some autistic students struggle with information processing, while others may be unable to form healthy emotional attachments. Autistic students benefit from specialized plans for education designed specifically for their unique issues.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common disorder in children and can make learning very difficult. Students struggle to stay on task because they are unable to stay focused. Medication, paired with behavior and educational modification, can be very effective for students struggling with ADHD.

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