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 Disability Information - Emotional Impairment, Disorder or Disability


General Information

Education & Classroom Accommodations

Michigan Resources, Support Groups, Listservs & Websites

National Resources & Websites

Articles Related to this Disability

Medical Information

Books & Videos

Personal Home Pages & Websites


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 General Information

How to Identify Emotional Disabilities
Help your emotionally disabled child overcome a disability by looking for specific warning signs and targeting problem areas as early as possible.

This how-to guide is part of, the world's largest source of how-to information. With thousands of articles on a wide range of topics, eHow has the step-by-step guides you need. For everything from how to throw a knuckleball to how to muzzle a dog, is your how-to solution.

1. Watch your child in social peer situations. Is your child withdrawn or rejected by other children? Does your child dominate play, causing other children to not want to play?

2. Look for patterns of aggressive behavior lasting six months or longer. Does your child consistently bully others or use aggressive force with other children or animals? Does your child initiate fights?

3. Watch your child when playing independently. Does your child act violently toward toys and inanimate objects? Is your child self-destructive? Does your child seem depressed or uninterested in activity? Does your child cry or become frustrated easily?

4. Look for emotional cues. Does your child pretend to be physically ill when confronted with a school event or a social situation? Does your child have excessive fear or anxiety associated with certain activities? Does your child cry excessively over seemingly little things?

5. Set rules. Look for major infractions of rules such as truancy or running away with older children. With younger children, look for consistently breaking rules, aggression toward siblings, stealing and lying.

6. Talk openly with your child about the behavior that concerns you. Explain that you are concerned and want to make changes. Be specific and nonjudgmental.

7. Ask your child if something has happened to him or her. Children sometimes act out in an attempt to draw attention to a problem they are having and are afraid of discussing.

8. Ask your child's teacher if problems have occurred in the classroom and what things you can do to help your child at home.

Tips:  Have your child professionally tested if you think your child has an emotional disability or if behavioral problems are creating academic, social or other problems for your child. Research emotional disabilities in an attempt to help your child.

Warnings:  Beware of changes in environment or life events that may alter your child's behavior. Sometimes moving to a new town or school can cause a child to act out aggressively or overly emotionally in an attempt to adjust to the change.


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 Education & Classroom Accommodations

Continuing Education Glossary - Glossary of terms, acronyms and laws for educators of students with emotional or behavioral disorders. by Neuromotion Labs - “With our bioresponsive games, kids learn self regulation to help them thrive.” Developed and tested at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.


Emotional Disabilities
Brian Carroll for the P. Buckley Moss Foundation for Children's Education Disability Forum

Defining the disability of emotional disturbance to certain standards is difficult because of the changing and revised criteria for determining eligibility. The current definition under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, Public Law 101-476 , lists several characteristics to consider for eligibility for special services:

". . . a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects educational performance --

An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors;

An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers;

Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances;

A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression; or

A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems."

The causes of emotional disturbance have not been adequately determined. Although various factors such as heredity, brain disorder, diet, stress, and family functioning have been suggested as possible causes, research has not shown any of these factors to be the direct cause of behavior problems. Some of the characteristics and behaviors seen in children who have emotional disturbances include:

Hyperactivity (short attention span, impulsiveness);

Aggression/self-injurious behavior (acting out, fighting);

Withdrawal (failure to initiate interaction with others);

retreat from exchanges of social interaction (excessive fear or anxiety);

Immaturity (inappropriate crying, temper tantrums, poor coping skills); and,

Learning difficulties (academically performing below grade level).

One of the more public issues associated with the condition of emotional disturbance involves safety and discipline in the school setting. Occasionally, students with emotional disturbance exhibit provocative and disruptive behaviors in school. These behaviors raise issues of discipline and safety in schools. The most recent revisions of PL 101-476 provide more leverage for teachers to suspend and, in some cases, expel students with emotional disturbance who exhibit disruptive behavior. It should be noted that a student assessed as having emotional disturbance does not necessarily exhibit disruptive behaviors and may show more withdrawn symptoms.

Many children who do not have emotional disturbances may display some of these same behaviors at various times during their development. However, when children have serious emotional disturbances, these behaviors continue over long periods of time. Their behavior thus signals that they are not coping with their environment or peers.

The educational programs for students with a serious emotional disturbance need to include attention to mastering academics; developing social skills; and, increasing self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-control. Career education (both academic and vocational programs) is also a major part of secondary education and should be a part of every adolescent's transition plan in his or her Individualized Education Program (IEP).

Behavior modification is one of the most widely used approaches to helping children with a serious emotional disturbance. However, there are many other techniques that are also successful -- such as counseling, anger management, and learning contracts that may be used in combination with behavior modification.

Students eligible for special education services under the category of serious emotional disturbance may have IEPs that include psychological or counseling services as a related service. This feature is an important related service which is available under the law and is to be provided by a qualified social worker, psychologist, guidance counselor, or other qualified personnel.

Families of children with emotional disturbances may need help in understanding their children's condition and in learning how to work effectively with them. Help is available from psychiatrists, psychologists, or other mental health professionals in public or private mental health settings. Children should be provided with services based on their individual needs, and all persons who are involved with these children should be aware of the care they are receiving. It is important to coordinate all services between home, school, and the therapeutic community with open communication.

Adamec, C. (1996). How to live with a mentally ill person: A handbook of day-to-day strategies. New York: John Wiley and Sons. (Telephone: 1-800-323-9872; extension 2497)

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. (1994). A parent's guide to childhood and adolescent depression. New York: Dell. (Telephone: 1-800-323-9872)

Hatfield, A.B. (1991). Coping with mental illness in the family: A family guide. Arlington, VA: National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. (Product #082. See telephone number below.)

Hatfield, A.B., and Lefley, H.P. (1993). Surviving mental illness: Stress, copying, and adaptation. New York: Guilford Press. (Telephone: 1-800-365-7006)

Jordan, D. (1991). A guidebook for parents of children with emotional or behavior disorders. Minneapolis, MN: PACER Center. (Telephone: 1-612-827-2966)

Jordan, D. (1995). Honorable intentions: A parent's guide to educational planning for children with emotional or behavioral disorders. Minneapolis, MN: PACER Center. (Telephone: 1-612-827-2966)

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. (1996). Resource catalog: A listing of resources from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (Rev. ed.). Arlington, VA: Author. (Telephone: 1-703-524-7600; 1-800-950-NAMI]

National Clearinghouse on Family Support and Children's Mental Health. (1993, April). National directory of organizations serving parents of children and youth with emotional and behavioral disorders (3rd ed.). Portland, OR: Author. (Telephone: 1-503-725-4040)

Wood, M.M., and Long, N.J. (1991). Life space interventions: Talking with children and youth in crisis. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed. (Telephone: 1-512-451-3246)


Michigan Special Education Label: Emotional Impairment Defined

R 340.1706 Emotional impairment; determination; evaluation report.

Rule 6. (1) Emotional impairment shall be determined through manifestation of behavioral problems primarily in the affective domain, over an extended period of time, which adversely affect the student's education to the extent that the student cannot profit from learning experiences without special education support. The problems result in behaviors manifested by 1 or more of the following characteristics:

(a) Inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships within the school environment.

(b) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.

(c) General pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

(d) Tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

(2) Emotional impairment also includes students who, in addition to the characteristics specified in subrule (1) of this rule, exhibit maladaptive behaviors related to schizophrenia or similar disorders. The term "emotional impairment" does not include persons who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that the persons have an emotional impairment.

(3) Emotional impairment does not include students whose behaviors are primarily the result of intellectual, sensory, or health factors.

(4) When evaluating a student suspected of having an emotional impairment, the multidisciplinary evaluation team report shall include documentation of all of the following:

(a) The student's performance in the educational setting and in other settings, such as adaptive behavior within the broader community.

(b) The systematic observation of the behaviors of primary concern which interfere with educational and social needs.

(c) The intervention strategies used to improve the behaviors and the length of time the strategies were utilized.

(d) Relevant medical information, if any.

(5) A determination of impairment shall be based on data provided by a multidisciplinary evaluation team, which shall include a comprehensive evaluation by both of the following:

(a) A psychologist or psychiatrist.

(b) A school social worker.


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 Michigan Resources, Support Groups, Listservs & Websites


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 National Resources & Websites

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Public Information Office
3615 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
Telephone: 1-202-966-7300
Telephone: 1-800-333-7636

ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education
Council for Exceptional Children
1920 Association Drive
Reston, VA 22091-1589
Telephone: 1-800-328-0272
Telephone: 1-703-264-9449 (TTY)

Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health
1021 Prince Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-2971
Telephone: 1-703-684-7710

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
200 N. Glebe Road, Suite 1015
Arlington, VA 22203-3754
Telephone: 1-703-524-7600
Telephone: 1-800-950-NAMI

National Clearinghouse on Family Support and Children's Mental Health
Portland State University
P.O. Box 751
Portland, OR 97207-0751
Telephone: 1-800-628-1696
Telephone: 1-503-725-4040

National Mental Health Association
1021 Prince Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-2971
Telephone: 1-703-684-7722
Telephone: 1-800-969-6642

National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities
P.O. Box 1492
Washington, DC 20013
Telephone: 1-800-695-0285 (Voice/TT)


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 Articles Related to this Disability

OH Disabled Pupils Learn to Focus in Sensory Room - The bright colors, dazzling lights and textured gizmos in the new "sensory" room at a school for students with developmental disabilities actually have a calming effect. [Free registration/login required to view this article.]


Continuing Education Glossary - Glossary of terms, acronyms and laws for educators of students with emotional or behavioral disorders.


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 Medical Information

 How to Find the Latest Research on Emotional Disabilities
If your child is diagnosed with an emotional disability you'll have lots of questions: Which one does your child have? What can you do to help your child? What are your rights as a parent? There are plenty of techniques and research on how to deal with and overcome emotional disabilities. These steps will help you get started on your information search.

1. Call your local school board. Chances are they have a learning disabilities department that deals with all of the special needs students in your school district. The department will be able to provide you with numbers and addresses of agencies that can provide you with more information on emotional disabilities.

2. Go to the library. Ask the librarian to guide you in the right direction or do research on the library's central computer system. Be sure to check the date of the materials you find - some information may be outdated and not appropriate to your needs.

3. Log on. Do an Internet search. Try these keywords: emotional disability, emotional disturbance, behavioral disability, behavioral disturbance, conduct disorder. Different sites will be listed under each keyword search. You'll find sites with definitions, legal implications, and teaching and parenting ideas. You'll also find chat rooms where you can talk to other parents with your same concerns or ask questions of experts. There are several national organizations focusing specifically on the needs of students with learning disabilities and behavioral disabilities; the groups' Web sites will have useful links and information about federal studies.

4. Ask your child's teacher. If your child is placed in a special education class, the teacher should have resources for you to use or be able to direct you in the right direction. If your child's teacher does not have information for you, request it as soon as possible. Make sure the person who is teaching your child is qualified to teach students with emotional or conduct disorders.

Tips: Call the U.S. Department of Education at (800) USA-LEARN for information about recent federal studies.

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 Books & Videos

Accommodating Students with Learning and Emotional Disabilities, 2nd Edition
edited by Ellen M. Babbitt
ADA issues arising on college and university campuses are more numerous, complex, and subtle than ever before, due in large part to students being increasingly sophisticated and forthcoming in their requests for disability accommodations. Lawyers, regulators, and disability advocates expend substantial amounts of time and resources debating and negotiating the nuances of the ADA laws and regulations as they play out in these often difficult situations. In addition, courts and federal agencies have spent the better part of the past decade interpreting and refining the unclear language of the ADA as it applies to learning and emotional disabilities. This book brings together a wealth of materials that touch on the various aspects of learning and emotional disability issues in an effort to clarify some of the distinctions and to provide assistance to administrators and others on campus facing these challenges. It is organized into four primary sections: statutes, regulations, agency guidance, and Supreme Court decisions; general principles of ADA analysis; special issues, with a particular focus on accommodating learning and emotional disabilities at professional schools, in athletics and for off-site and distance learning programs; and an extensive collection of additional resources, websites, and other materials that allow for more in-depth research by all users. Available both in hard copy and on CD-ROM. 2004. 1056 pp. NACUA member institutions: $95 for CD-ROM; $110 for hard copy; NACUA non-member institutions: $140 for CD-ROM; $155 for hard copy.


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 Personal Home Pages & Websites


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