Behavioral/Emotional Disability

How does IDEA define Emotional Disabilities?

Here is the specific definition of emotional disturbance from section 300.7(c) of the IDEA regulations.

(4) Emotional disturbance is defined as follows:

(i) The term means 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: 

(A) An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors. 
(B) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers. 
(C) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances. 
(D) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression. 
(E) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

(ii) The term includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance.

Approximately 6 to 8 million (about 12%) of all children and youth in the United States have an emotional, behavioral or mental disorder in need of treatment. Of these, about half have problems that are severe and persistent. These problems take a number of forms. The children may self-abusive or aggressive towards others; withdrawn, fearful or depressed. Some with the most serious disorders may be out-of-touch with reality and have unusual fantasies or hallucinations.

Emotional disabilities vary in the degree of severity, but tend to be persistent/chronic, and result in significant impairment of personal, social, educational, and/or vocational functioning. The causes of these problems are largely unknown and may vary from child to child. Current research-based knowledge suggests that biological, social, psychological and environmental factors are all important. A wide range of therapeutic, educational and social services are essential to address the needs of children with emotional disabilities and their families.

Common Assistive Technology Devices used by Children with Emotional Disabilities

While there is no specific assistive technology to help a child with emotional disabilities, assistive technology may be useful in helping a child to deal with the effects of the disability on a particular functional life skill. Below is a list of functional life skills from the Overview of Assistive Technology . Click on the functional life skill to find more information about assistive technology tools that can help.

Other Behavioral/Emotional Disability Websites

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill

Special Education and Rehabilitation Internet Resources: Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities Sites