The results of this failure to distinguish can be extremely problematic to the effectiveness with which emotional disturbance is addressed and can have broad sociological consequences. Rush reports some stunning figures, particularly that among emotionally disturbed students, "Fifty-five percent leave school before graduating. Of those students with severe emotional disturbance who drop out of school, 73% are arrested within five years of leaving school." (Rush, 1)
In spite of these facts, schools often fail to address the needs of the emotionally disturbed, blunting the impact which quality educators can have on their education and their development of positive patterns of behaviors. As the article by Greshem (2005) contends, there is an absence of proper identification and service to students with emotional disturbance, owing to a lack of resource and intuition on the part of administrators. As a result, Greshem reports that "historically, the U.S. Department of Education estimated the prevalence rate for children and youth serves as (ED) at 2%. However, recent prevalence estimates of children served as ED continues to be less than 1% nationwide." (Greshem, 328) This means that even as we gain greater understanding of the importance of addressing emotional disturbance in the academic context, we are actually decline in our recognition of the problem and our allotment of the resources to address it.
Teachers who do not specialize in special education but who are working with unidentified students with symptoms of emotional disturbance are benefited by the research conducted in a study by Harris-Murri et al. (2006), which describes the need to intervene with students in need and which projects manners in which to approach the student's response to said intervention. Harris-Murri et al. denote that "broadly defined. Response to Intervention is based on systematic procedures involving general education interventions attempting to resolve students' present difficulties accompanied by a form of progress monitoring. "A response-to-intervention model necessitates using decision making methods that use graduated increases or decreases in the initial and ongoing need for special services." (Harris-Murri et al., 782) to this effect, Harris-Murri et al. offer a strategic opportunity for educators to impact the progress of the student exhibiting symptoms of emotional disturbance. In addition to the clear impact of placing a student on a corrective path toward individualized education, the graduating evaluation of intervention effectiveness recommended also produces a methodology for remaining dynamic and flexible in the face of the student's evolving needs.
The reality of special education is that those students suffering from emotional disturbance often constitute one of the lowest priorities to administrators and budget-makers. This is because a set of low expectations have long functioned to detain school districts from developing the proper tactics for helping the emotionally disturbed not just succeed behaviorally but to actually learn as well. This is the crucial formative impact which the instructor can have on a student who has exhibited patterns of behavioral abnormality or who suffers from severe emotional disturbance, providing the student with a supportive confidence in his or her capacity to demonstrate growth, to grasp educational concepts and to achieve these within the framework of acceptable social and behavioral conditions.
This is a resolution which is underscored by a set of key recommendations for the realization of this impact. Central among them is the key importance of positive reinforcement. Without question, those students who suffer from emotional disturbance to the extent of demonstrating clear behavioral problems will have been frequently exposed throughout their lives to reprimand and punitive responsiveness. The centering of the student's experience on the expression of positive support for positive behavior and, simultaneously, the expression of positive support for positive academic performance, can help to remove the underlying emotional triggers that tend to invoke uncontrolled episodes and inappropriate behaviors. The ability to achieve this impact with a student will hinge heavily on the educator's ability to establish a real and trust-based relationship with the student, to access all available resources and support system members, and to maintain the crucial individual attentiveness that every special needs student requires.
Greshem, F.M. (2005). Response to Intervention: An Alternative Means of Identifying Students as Emotionally Disturbed. Education and Treatment of Children, 28(4), 328-344.
Harris-Murri, N.; King, K. & Rostenberg, D. (2006). Reducing Disproportionate Minority Representation in Special Education Programs for Students with Emotional Disturbances: Toward a Culturally Responsive Response to Intervention Model. Education and Treatment of Children, 29(4), 779-799.
Ogonosky, a. (2009). Emotionally Disturbed Students. Association of Texas Professional Educators. Online at http://www.atpe.org/resources/Student&ParentIssues/emoDisturb.asp
Rush, S. (2005). Improving Education for Students with Emotional…