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1. Emotional Disturbance ≠ Emotional or Behavior Disorders
Having "emotional disturbance" is not always the same as having emotional or behavioral disorders. Emotional disturbance is a specific label provided by the school that makes a student eligible for special education services and protection under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (2004). A student with emotional or behavioral disorders may not always qualify for services under the emotional disturbance category.
2. Students Considered Emotionally Disturbed Meet Certain Criteria
Students classified with emotionally disturbance must meet specific criteria for an extended time that negatively impacts their school performance: Display inappropriate behaviors under normal circumstances. Unable to build or keep relationships with peer or teacher. A pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression. Tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears related to personal or school problems.
3. Emotional Disturbance is Probably Underdetected
0.72 % of all students ages 6 - 21 receive special education for emotional disturbance. Studies show that there is likely a higher need of students who require services for emotional disturbance than those who are actually being served. Boys classified as emotionally disturbed outnumber girls 3.5 to 1.
4. Identifying Students With Emotional Disabilities is Difficult
Objectively identifying and classifying students with emotional disabilities is difficult. School staff tend to be hesitant to label a child "emotionally disturbed." Emotional or behavioral disabilities are identified with teacher and parent rating scales, behavior observations in the classroom, and tests of intelligence, achievement, and psychological status.
5. Hyperactivity is a Common Trait
Exhibiting impulsive, distractible behaviors are not uncommon for students with emotional and behavior disorders. Many children with emotional and behavioral disabilities also have ADHD.
6. Aggression is Also a Common Characteristic
Aggression can be directed toward objects, other people, or oneself. The DSM-IV-TR describes aggression in people with conduct disorders or oppositional defiant disorder. Aggression is first seen in young children in the forms of annoying or bullying. It takes the form of physical fighting and violence when children get older, especially in boys.
7. Learning Disabilities is a Correlated Symptom
A noteworthy percentage of people with emotional disabilities also have learning difficulties. About 30 to 50 percent of youth in correctional facilities have learning disabilities.
8. Emotional or Behavioral Problems May Be Internalized as Eating Disorders
Teenage girls with emotional or behavioral problems may internalize their anxieties by starving themselves or making themselves throw up. Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, occur when an individual is overly concerned with weight or body image.
9. Kids Can Have Depression
Depression is often difficult to recognize in children. Adults often overlook intentional accidents, like falling off a ledge, as accidental mischief. Also, children usually do not have the insight, experience, or the vocabulary to explain how they are feeling.
10. In Kids, Anxiety Disorders Are Often Left Undiagnosed
Anxiety disorders are also difficult to recognize in children, which leaves them at a higher risk for being untreated. Anxiety disorders are characterized by having generalized worry and fear, decreasing contact with strangers, or intense anxiety when separating from family, friends, or a comfortable environment.
11. Schizophrenia is an Extreme Form of Emotional Disturbance
Schizophrenia is a serious form of emotional disturbance that does not occur frequently. Schizophrenia involves hallucinations, delusions, disconnected thoughts, and incoherence. Children with schizophrenia usually live in special hospital and educational settings.
12. Behavior Problems Are Not Covered in IDEA
Children with conduct disorders or who are socially maladjusted do not qualify for special education under the category of emotional disturbance. Conduct disorder includes a repetitive and frequent pattern of violation of rules and destructive behavior. Students who qualify as socially maladjusted can receive services under Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.