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Section 5

ak dept education

special ed handbook

The following information is provided to help clarify the meaning of some words and phrases commonly associated with the eligibility category emotionally disturbed (ED).

Long Period of Time

Transitory Situations

Refers to situational problems that may be understandable given the nature of the circumstances. For example, a death in the family, divorce, moving to a new school, financial crisis, physical illness or injury may produce transitory behavior changes. In general, a crisis is a temporary period of instability, bounded by times of greater stability. Periods of instability tend to be time limited; six to eight weeks for example.

Non-transitory Situations

Refers to behavior changes that do not return to the adaptive state that existed prior to a precipitating event. To determine this requires evidence of appropriate behavioral functioning prior to a significant negative change in behavior. Historical information is very important in this process.

Chronological Age

"Long period of time" should be considered in relation to the chronological age of the student. Less than a year may be a long time for a young child, while the same period of time may not be long for a teenager.

In Regards to Specific Conditions

Using commonly accepted professional criteria and standards, such as DSM-IV, maladaptive behavior may need to exist for a minimum length of time before being considered to meet the criteria of "long period of time". For example, behaviors commonly associated with schizophrenia must persist for at least six months before a certification can be recommended. Six months is commonly used for other behavior disorders as well.

Marked Degree

In order to quantify "to a marked degree," the following questions should be answered:
  • Is the behavior in question considered a significant problem by more than one observer and in more than one setting?
  • What is the frequency, intensity and/or duration of the behavior? Is the frequency, intensity and/or duration significantly different from that of a similar child in the same or similar circumstances?
  • In which settings does the behavior occur?
  • Are there noticeable or predictable patterns to behavior?
  • How does the behavior affect others?
  • Is the behavior identified as a concern by norm-referenced behavior measures?
Test Data

Results from standardized and/or norm-referenced instruments are used to substantiate "to a marked degree," but are not to be the sole source of information. Observable events are to be documented using appropriate instruments, interview formats and structured observations. Results obtained from personality inventories and/or projective instruments should be substantiated by behavioral examples.

Adversely Affects Educational Performance

In order for an IEP Team to determine that a child is demonstrating an emotional disturbance, there must be evidence that the child's educational performance is adversely affected. In addition, there must be a demonstrated linkage between the student's behavior and decreased educational performance.

In order to measure the degree to which educational performance is adversely affected, the following questions should be addressed:
  • Is the child's educational performance substantially within the range expected for his/her chronological age?
  • If performing below academic expectations, is the probable cause emotional or behavioral problems?
  • Are the emotional or behavioral problems affecting the educational performance of this child to a greater degree than similar problems affect the performance of peers?
  • Does the child achieve passing grades? Is there regular academic growth? Has the child been held back?
  • Is the child absent frequently? If so, how has the child's grades been affected?
Qualifying Characteristics

An inability to learn which cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, health factors:
  • Inability to learn: A discrepancy between the ability to learn in relation to how much is being learned.

Primary Handicap: Reduced (retarded) cognitive skills, sensory deficits, or health impairment cannot be the primary cause of the discrepancy. A specific learning disability may exist, but cannot be the primary cause of the behavioral/emotional problem.

An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers:
  • Interpersonal Relationships: Focus is on the "inability to build or maintain" satisfactory relationships with others. Does not refer to students who have problems with a particular teacher or with one or more peers. Relationship problems which are pervasive. Difficulty in establishing and maintaining group membership. Conflict and chaos characterize all relationships.
  • Relationships and Settings: May include those who are profoundly withdrawn, have poor reality contact, lack social skills but have the ability to learn them. Does not include students who have appropriate, satisfactory relationships with peers in their subculture, yet violate community norms.
Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances:
  • Significantly Inappropriate Behaviors: Would include bizarre verbalizations, overreactions, repeated recitation of words, fetishes, and obsessive and compulsive behaviors. Would also include inappropriate sexual behaviors such as inappropriately touching others, public masturbation, unusual or provocative sexual verbalization.
  • Significantly Inappropriate Feelings: Must have documentation that persistent and significantly inappropriate feelings exist which are not justified by circumstances. Documentation to include negative self statements as well as feelings which are reflected in and inferred from observable behavior.
A generally pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression:
  • Severe Unhappiness or Depression: Manifested in different ways in different children. Signs may include constant crying, withdrawal, boredom, listlessness, as well as angry, aggressive or agitated behavior. Eating and sleeping problems, or loss of interest in usual activities are also signs, as are feelings of hopelessness and suicidal tendencies.
  • Situation-Specific Depression: Would not include feeling depressed about a death in the family or divorce of parents, which are situation specific and for the most part normal and tend to be "resolved" (i.e., satisfactory level of appropriate equilibrium) within six to eight weeks.

A tendency to develop physical symptoms of fears associated with personal or school problems:

  • Persistent Physical Symptoms: Chronic, as opposed to acute, physical reaction to some situation at home or school. Would include such reactions as headache, nausea, asthma, ulcers, colitis, etc. Would require medical evidence that the problem does not have a physical origin. Must have negative impact on learning. Need to obtain data across settings and over time.
  • School Phobia (refusal): Although this condition meets criteria for eligibility and certification, placement would probably not be recommended. Other less restrictive treatment interventions (systematic desensitization) are likely to resolve the problem.
Behavior Patterns Excluded from Emotional Disturbance Eligibility
  • Children who persistently violate the basic rights of others and major age-appropriate societal norms have serious conduct problems which are very disturbing, especially in school. However, they do not qualify as ED. Children with a conduct disorder tend to manifest the following behaviors: stealing, running away from home, lying, deliberately setting fires, often truant from school, breaking into some else's home, deliberately destroying property, cruel to animals, often initiates physical fights and physically cruel to people. School and/or community-based interventions are to be pursued.
  • Children who are negativistic, hostile and defiant present significant management problems for teachers and administrators. Their behavior is characterized as "oppositional" and includes: frequent loss of temper and arguments with adults, defying adult requests, deliberately annoying other people and being annoyed by others, blaming others for their own mistakes, frequently angry, resentful, spiteful or vindictive and frequently uses obscene language. Children who tend to manifest these behaviors are not considered emotionally disturbed. School and/or community-based interventions are to be pursued.

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