March 6, 2013
Challenge of Teaching Students with EBD
There is much debate and confusion when defining emotional or behavioral disorders (EBD). Until 1997 this category was identified as serious emotional disturbance (SED). With the creation of IDEA in 1997 this category was changed to emotional disturbance (ED). While the federal government still uses ED as there identifying category for this disability, most professionals refer to it as emotional or behavioral disorders (EBD). The identifying names are not the only discrepancies between professionals who work with these children and the government. The federal government defines emotional disturbance as exhibiting characteristics that adversely affects educational performance over a long period of time. More than one characteristic must exist and in a certain degree. These characteristics include: difficulty learning without the present of other factors, unsatisfactory relationships with peers and teachers, inappropriate behaviors and feelings, development of physical symptoms when problems arise (Yell, Meadows, Drasgow, & Shriner, 2009). While it is significant that this disorder is defined as a disability by the federal government, thus providing necessary services for these students, it is flawed. There lacks a specific criteria in the length of time and the degree of symptoms. The Mental Health and Special Education Association adapted a definition that is believed to be more functional when identifying students with EBD. They define emotional or behavioral disorders as: “exhibiting emotional or behavioral responses in school programs are so different from appropriate age, cultural, or ethnic norms that the response adversely affect educational performance” Mental Health and Special Education Coalition, 1990). They note that this impacts academic, social, vocational or personal skills for more than a typical time period as a response to a stressful situation. The behaviors must be demonstrated across two settings, one being school and are not decreased by instruction in the general education classroom (Health and Special Education Coalition, 1990). The definition includes the assertion that this disability can co-exist with others disabilities. The National School Boards Association rejected this definition when presented and continues to use their definition as the tool for classifying children in this disability category. They felt that the definition would significantly increase the number of students identified as having a disability under the ED category (Yell et al, 2009). Controversy remains concerning the definition of ED, which could cause delays or lack of necessary intervention services for many students suffering from EBD.
A significant challenge in categorizing students within the EBD category is that they can co-exist with other disabilities. Students can be misclassified as a having another disability or strictly be thought to be deviant. This is due to the fact that many educators are unable to recognize the characteristics of students with EBD. Students with emotional or behavioral disturbances are cognitively in the average or above average range, but consistently perform below normal. These academic deficits can be attributed to teachers not understanding this category of disability and not providing the necessary supports, behavioral strategies, effective instructional strategies or curriculum to meet their needs. Students with EBD may also have a language disorder. Often times when a child is unable to effectively communicate they will use inappropriate behaviors until they learn the necessary communication skills (Yell et al, 2009). Students with EBD are frequently disciplined for school infractions. The first course of action by many schools is to discipline students when they do not follow the rule. While this can be effective, the educator must determine the antecedent of...