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Promoting School Completion Of Students With Emotional Or Behavioral Disabilities}

Promoting School Completion of Students with Emotional or Behavioral Disabilities


Wendy Greif

The risk of school failure for students with emotional or behavioral disabilities is very high. According to a study conducted in 1995 by the National Longitudinal Transition Study of Special Education Students (NLTS), 55% of students with emotional disabilities dropout; compared to 36% of students with other disabilities. Another study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education in 2002, found that 40% of students with emotional or behavioral disabilities graduated with a standard diploma. Attendance difficulties were listed as the most common reason for dropping out. Although, students who had been held back were twice as likely to dropout. Other reasons for students dropping out of school included home language, disability, poverty, school suspensions, and accessibility of services. Unfortunately, there have not been enough studies done that separate children with disabilities from the average percentage of children dropping out of school.

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Today, many school districts dealing with high dropout rates begin their interventions in kindergarten and first grade. The teachers work together with the parents to try an implement strategies which will involve the student more in the academic process. They may place the child in a once or twice a week pull out program for small group work. Or, they may provide an after school program for the child to attend. Generally, they also try to educate the parents in the issues that their child faces. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, many of these programs have lost their funding and are no longer operating.

Persistence on the part of the school is the most important factor in keeping these children in school. Teachers and administrators need to work together to find out why a student is not attending school. Children with emotional and behavioral disabilities often feel a lack of love (or caring) from the adults around them. When a teacher or an administrator shows a special interest in the child, it is amazing how the child’s attitude towards school may change.

I have had many good experiences with my emotionally disabled students. I remember one young man who consistently did not come to school. When I spoke to his mother, I found out the problem was that he did not like riding the bus. He felt as if the other kids picked on him too much. Luckily, he was on my way to the school, so I made arrangements to pick him up everyday and take him home. Although, most schools do not like teachers to do this (mostly for insurance reasons and possible other issues), I felt that if it got this child to school it was worth the risk. Thankfully, that year his grades improved and he spent more days in school then out. Unfortunately, two years later (when he was under another teacher’s supervision) he dropped out of school. If only someone had continued to take a special interest in this child, he might have finished his education.

Many children with emotional disabilities or behavioral problems are also children with high IQs. These children need to feel challenged to a certain degree academically, while they need to feel safe in their environment. Schools should make a special effort to involve these students in all phases of a normal academic curriculum. Too many of these students, because of their aggressive behavior, are placed in self-contained classes and not allowed to take regular diploma seeking classes.

Most Special Ed teachers are trained to teach academics at a very basic level, although some are capable of teaching higher academics. Unfortunately, when a student is placed in a self-contained class through most of their academic career, the likelihood of them graduating with a diploma is rather unlikely. This is something that needs to change. These children will have to function in the real world in order to survive. Schools need to better prepare them for a diploma. If you have a child with special needs (especially one who has been diagnosed with an emotional disability) be active in your child’s education. Make sure that the school your child goes to is doing all they can to help your child receive a good education. Be involved and informed on all aspects of your child’s academic career.

Wendy Greif is a mother and graduate of USF in Special Education. She has taught children with various disabilities in both South Carolina and Florida. Mrs. Greif operates an informational website for parents and caregivers of children and/or adults with special needs ( http://www.specialneedschildrenandadults.com ).

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Promoting School Completion of Students with Emotional or Behavioral Disabilities


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