Emotional Disturbance (ED) and Emotional Behavioral Disorders (EBD)
The terms EBD (which stands for Emotional Behavioral Disorders) and ED (Emotional Disturbance) are often mistakenly used interchangeably, but Emotional Disturbance (ED) is the official term used in federal special education law, and it has a specific definition and set of criteria that must be met as laid out in the law.
Emotional Disturbance, according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004, is,
A condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child's educational performance:As previously stated, the terms EBD (which stands for Emotional Behavioral Disorders) and ED (Emotional Disturbance) are often mistakenly used interchangeably, but Emotional Disturbance (ED) is the official term used in federal special education law, specifically IDEA of 2004.
- An inability to learn that can't 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.
- A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.
The reason why these terms are often used interchangeably is because it is certainly possible for a student to struggle with an emotional/behavioral disorder that does not meet the definition and criteria of ED as laid out in the special education law.
In fact, it is estimated that as high as 16% of the student population may have an EBD of some kind, and that 3-5% of all students have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder. Out of a class of 30 students, this translates into anywhere from 1-5 students having a psychiatric disorder. Up to 20% of these students show symptoms of disorders, yet only 1% of these students are referred for special education services. Only around 12% of schools and districts conduct universal screening for EBDs.
Students identified with EBD experience intense, chronic behavior and/or emotional challenges that last longer than six months. They are considered to have a mental health disability, and diagnosis is typically made by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. They are at-risk in every social and academic facet. Indeed, many EBD students miss out on instruction due to trips to the office, suspensions, and expulsions. Many have Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs) in place that are designed to provide customized strategies and tools for helping them behave appropriately.
Keys to success for these students include strong, healthy relationships with school staff, as well as early identification, intervention, and various academic and behavioral supports. Staff should avoid power struggles with these students.
Further Reading and Additional Resources
Emotional Disturbance - Center for Parent Information & Resources
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) - U.S. Department of Education
Emotional and Behavioral Disorders in the Classroom - EducationCorner.com
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