Emotional Disturbance Eligibility

  • Guiding Principles

    As with any eligibility decision, the question of eligibility for special education under the category of Emotional Disturbance is an important one. Special education can provide much needed supports and insight for students with disabilities. At the same time, the identification for special education can impact the ways a student experiences school, and the mindset of the learner and those around them.

    There is a historical pattern (nationally) of overidentifying students of color (especially boys) in the category of Emotional Disturbance. When considering a student of color for an eligibility of Emotional Disturbance, the team must consider the context of the student’s culture and its potential impact on instruction, interventions and assessment.


    Procedural Guidance

    Follow steps 1-7 for evaluation as outlined on the ED eligibility statement

    1. Review of existing information, including information from parents
    2. Evaluation of the child’s emotional and behavioral status, including (when appropriate) a developmental or social history
    3. A medical statement completed by a Physician or a health assessment statement completed by a Registered Nurse, Nurse Practitioner or Physician’s Assistant
    4. Two Behavior Rating Scales
      1. the standardized behavior rating scale can be completed by two raters using the same measure
    5. Two observations by someone other than the student’s regular teacher
      1. one observation in the classroom
      2. one observation in another setting
    6. Other assessments to determine the impact of the suspected disability
    7. Additional evaluations or assessments that are necessary to identify the student’s educational needs


    The characteristics of a child identified with an Emotional Disturbance:

    • 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

    Ensure that the student has exhibited one or more criteria for eligibility over a long period of time and to a marked degree.

    A medical statement indicating whether there are any physical factors that may be affecting the child’s educational performance must be included. A mental health diagnosis is not required.

    A child who is socially maladjusted may not be identified as having an emotional disturbance unless the child also meets the minimum criteria.

    Characteristics should not be a secondary manifestation attributable to substance abuse, medication, bereavement, or a general medical condition.

    In the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Emotional Disturbance is listed with the disability code #60


    Autism and Emotional Disturbance

    A child cannot be eligible for special education services in the category of autism spectrum disorder if the child’s primary disability is an emotional disturbance (see OAR 581-015-2145). However, a child with ASD as a primary disability may also have an emotional disturbance as a secondary disability.


    ED Criteria - Definitions and Descriptions - This is a guidance document from the Connecticut state department of education

    Cultural and Linguistic Considerations for ED - This is a guidance document from the Connecticut state department of education

    Eligibility Criteria Checklist - National Association of Special Education Teachers

    Comparison of Emotional Disturbance and Socially Maladjusted - schoolpsychologistfiles.com


    How do we determine whether the student is socially maladjusted? What is social maladjustment and what should eligibility teams take into consideration if the student exhibits signs of both emotional disturbance and social maladjustment?