Today I’m attending a conference about Special Education. I’ll be presenting on a disability the law (IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) as Emotional Disturbance.
Many terms are used to describe emotional, behavioral or mental disorders. Currently, students with such disorders are categorized as having a serious emotional disturbance, which is defined under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as follows:
- An inability to learn that cannot 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; or
- A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.” [Code of Federal Regulations, Title 34, Section 300.7(b)(9)]
While not as common as high profile disabilities such as Autism and ADHD, disabilities that fall under the umbrella of “serious emotional disturbance” are becoming more common. While only 473,663 students ages 6-21 received services related to Emotional Disturbance in the 2000-2001 school year, experts consider Emotional Disturbance to be the most under-identified of all IDEA disability categories. As is the case with some other common disabilities, statistics show that boys are more likely to experience serious emotional and behavioral disorders than girls by a 3 to 1 ratio.
We need a national commitment to educating all students. Commitment in this sense is linked to dollars–dollars to employ specialists, to train general education teachers, and to provide necessary resources for students with disabilities and their families.
The Senate will be reviewing the President Obama’s stimulus bill in detail in the coming days. Please write, call, and email your representatives and tell them that you demand funding for the free, appropriate and equitable education of all students.