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What Is an Emotional Disturbance Disability?


Updated January 06, 2014

What is an Emotional Disturbance?

What is an Emotional Disturbance?

Emotional Disturbance - Getty

Definition: Emotional Disturbance - The IDEA specifies emotional disturbance as one of the thirteen disability categories of eligibility for special education services under 34 CFR 300.8(c)(6). It 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:

  • inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors;
  • inability to develop and keep appropriate, satisfactory social relationships with family, peers, and adults in the school system;
  • inappropriate behavior or feelings in response to normal situations;
  • a pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression; or
  • a tendency to develop negative physical symptoms or fears related to personal or school problems.

The category of emotional disturbance includes schizophrenia. However, many children with emotional disturbances do not have symptoms of other types of organic psychiatric disorders. Emotional disturbance is not diagnosed in children who are primarily socially maladjusted unless an underlying emotional disturbance under also exists.

Also Known As: Emotional disturbance is also called serious emotional disturbance, emotional behavioral disability, EBD, SED

Examples: Students with emotional disturbances are at risk for school failure and often require both specially designed instruction and psychotherapy or counseling services.


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