Facts About Emotional Disturbance

The mental health of our children should be always regarded as our primary concern. Many mental disorders begin in childhood and may go untreated till they are discovered in adolescence when many other serious problems crop up.

Emotional disturbance is an umbrella terms for mental disorder. It is used in the nation’s special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Beneath this term, there are many specific conditions that differ from one to another child. But in general, emotional disturbance refers to social-emotional disabilities. Though, it may also involve cognitive and physical disabilities. So, a child is classified as emotionally disturbed when they meet the following criteria:

  • Inability to make or maintain friendships or relationships in general.
  • Suffering from depression and anxiety.
  • Manifestations of fears, phobias, violence, aggression or personal difficulties.
  • Showing inappropriate behaviours.
  • Low school performance due to severe deficiencies.
  • Psychosomatic disorder.

Emotional disturbance may be temporary or permanent. However, not all children may exhibit the characteristics described above. On the other hand, many emotional disturbances have no cause actually. But possible factors may be biological, social, school or cultural factors (Hallahan & Kauffman, 2003; Kauffman, 2005). To date, researches could not prove that any of these factors are the direct cause of emotional disturbance.

Therefore, helping children with emotional disturbance requires huge efforts and patience from the parents and school. They need special care and education; in addition to designing special services to children with disabilities which should be free of charges. These services should address the needs of those children as well as providing their parents with support and coaching to know how to deal with their children.

Finally, it is difficult to objectively identify whether a child is emotionally disturbed. Ways of identifying the child’s emotional disturbance are, for instance, checklists, observations, tests of intelligence, psychological assessment…etc.



*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.


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