How to Educate Emotionally Disturbed Children

Supportive classrooms foster participation among students with emotional difficulties.
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Children of today are faced with a number of challenges that affect their ability to successfully learn. It is essential for teachers to understand the emotional disturbances of children. Armed with professional knowledge, you can create effective educational programs and establish classroom environments that support and enhance the learning process of kids who struggle with their emotions.

1 Identify Specific Disturbances

The U.S. Department of Education reported in 2002 that approximately 8% of school-age children had some type of emotional disturbance. These children are provided educational services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. Emotional disturbances encompass a wide range of disorders. It is essential for educators to recognize various disturbances to meet student needs more effectively. For example, children diagnosed with autism require educational approaches different from children suffering from schizophrenia. However, most children with emotional disturbances benefit from inclusive education in mainstream classrooms, a practice supported by IDEA.

2 Safe Learning Environments

When educating children with emotional disturbances, take special precautions to maintain an environment that is both physically and emotionally safe. This may include changes in the types of furniture, supplies and academic assignments. More specifically, hands-on science experiments that require the use of sharp objects and chemicals could be dangerous and may need to be avoided in some cases.

Likewise, steps must be taken to protect children from bullying and violence. In fact, the National Education Association (NEA), which provides anti-bullying lesson plans for teachers, reports that bullying is one of the biggest problems in schools. Students with emotional problems are particularly vulnerable to this disturbing form of abuse.

3 Appropriate Curriculum Materials

Meet with a team of professionals to determine the best educational approaches for students with emotional disturbances. Benefiting from the collective input of special education experts in helping kids with emotional disturbances, as well as administrators and other specialists, supports sensitive and informed selection of the most targeted curriculum materials.

Your team can also offer guidance in making appropriate modifications to the existing curriculum and implementing useful accommodations. For instance, providing audio-visual support with books and extending time on tasks are helpful modifications for some students with emotional disturbances. Permitting students to work in small groups or with partners can also be beneficial.

4 Teacher Training and Support

Providing teachers with comprehensive, high-quality training is one of the most effective ways to improve the education of emotionally disturbed students. Unfortunately, universities often fail to provide sufficient training special education to students majoring in education. If you find yourself without the resources to address the needs of emotionally disturbed students in your classroom, reach out to your team for support. Many schools, as well as teachers organizations, offer professional development opportunities, including ones that address the specific needs of students with emotional problems.

Dr. Aleathea Wiggins is a writer specializing in health, parenting and family issues. She is a former university professor, curriculum facilitator, and teacher. Dr. Wiggins holds advanced degrees and credentials in journalism, education, health and childcare administration. She has worked as a professional writer since 2009.