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Emotional and Behavioral Disorders in Special Education

Many students in the United States who are receiving special education exhibit mild disabilities. These mild disabilities have a very high incidence and are categorized into emotional disturbance, special learning disability, and mental retardation. According to Forness (1988), the National Special Education and Mental Health Coalition (NSEMHC) defines these disorders as a disability that is basically characterized by different emotional or behavioral responses to programs in school. These responses are different from ethnic, cultural, and appropriate age norms and greatly affect educational performance, as well as personal, vocational, social, and academic skills. This disability is not temporary and it is exhibited at least in a school setting.

Similarly, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) lists several characteristics in its definition of these behavioral and emotional disorders. One of the characteristics is the inability to learn. Students who have learning difficulties for long periods and have an educational performance that is far below grade level can be diagnosed with emotional and behavioral disorders. The second characteristic involves students exhibiting a general permeating depression or mood of unhappiness. Such students usually act at one time aggressively towards others while at other times are withdrawn. Students with this sort of disorder also exhibit hyperactivity and immaturity among other behaviors.

There are five types of emotional and behavioral disorders, namely, conduct disorders, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, emotional disturbances, and attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Conduct disorder is characterized by antisocial behaviors such as lying, stealing, violence, tantrums, and drug use in kids. When such kids become adults, these antisocial behaviors develop into drug abuse, vandalism, robbery, alcohol abuse, assault, malicious mischief, among others. Personality disorders are generally characterized by lack of ability to form and maintain interpersonal relationships with teachers as well as peers.

The children exhibiting such kind of disorder must be assessed by a professional psychiatrist. The psychiatrist carries out psycho-educational or neuropsychological tests to establish the level of the disorder. Once the children have been diagnosed with this disorder, teaching them becomes a great challenge. The teaching strategy must be tailored to cater for their special needs. The teachers must therefore liaise with skilled evaluators such as school psychologists and therapists to formulate an appropriate curriculum. This will enable students with emotional and behavioral disorders to enjoy quality education in a special way.

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