Emotionally Disturbed Students

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Emotionally Disturbed Students

Students with emotional and behavioral disorders (E/BD) frequently exhibit academic deficits alongside their behavioral deficits, particularly in the area of reading; however, there are very few studies examining ways to address the reading problems of this population of students at the middle and high school level. The academic deficits exhibited by students with emotional and behavioral disorders (E/BD) are well documented in research literature. As outlined in the federal definition of emotional disturbance, students with this disorder demonstrate an inability to learn and, as a result, pose instructional challenges alongside the behavioral problems that they exhibit in the school environment. Many of these students require intensive instruction to maintain the academic skills they have been taught and to improve their academic deficits. For many students with E/BD, achievement problems are particularly troublesome in the area of reading (Maughan, Pickles, Hagell, Rutter, & Yule, 1996). Unfortunately, there has been very little published research in the area of reading instruction with this population of students. In their review of reading interventions in the area of E/BD, Coleman and Vaughn (2000) identified only eight published studies that reported the results of reading interventions for students with E/BD. The majority of these studies were conducted with students younger than 12 years of age. The need for additional research in the area of reading instruction is particularly true for adolescents with E/BD. The reading failure of secondary students with behavioral problems has been consistently documented and, as reported in the findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study (Malmgren, Edgar, & Neel, 1998), these reading deficits likely contribute to the dismal outcomes for these students such as high dropout rates, grade retention, and overall poor achievement. In addition, the absence of empirically derived reading practices for older students with E/BD is particularly problematic given the current emphasis on achieving state curriculum standards and participating in content-area learning (Deshler et al., 2001). As noted earlier, students identified with E/BD typically show significant deficits in the area of reading. This is particularly true for secondary-age students with this condition. In a recently completed study (Wehby, Lunsford, & Phy, 2004), 21 high school students with E/BD were compared to a sample of typically developing students, matching on the grade-level reading ability of the high school students. Given the reading deficits of the high school students, the matched sample consisted of students in second through sixth grade. Results showed that the secondary group of students with E/BD performed significantly lower on word attack skills, reading fluency and accuracy, and overall reading rate. In a related study, Wehby (2004) reported that students with E/BD educated in a self-contained school scored significantly lower on a variety of academic measures, including reading, when compared to a similar sample of students with E/BD who were placed in self-contained classrooms located on general education campuses. From these data, it appears that older students with E/BD and those placed in restrictive settings have a history of academic failure associated with their existing instructional programs. As a result, studies are needed that document the responsiveness of this population to intense, instructional procedures using empirically validated techniques. Although researchers are aware of the reading failure that secondary students with E/BD frequently experience, the empirical research on how to intervene effectively to improve the reading deficits exhibited by these students is sparse. The studies that do exist have utilized interventions that range from single component programs that focus on a particular skill level to more comprehensive reading...
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