ADHD Assessment

The emotionally disturbed child

emotionally disturbed child

Deep, a 12 year old boy, has been a “problem child” since childhood. The youngest of three siblings, he does not obey his parents challenging their authority all the time, keeps faring poorly in school though there are no obvious cognitive issues, and has severe problems getting along with friends. Diagnosed with being an ‘emotionally disturbed child’ while in primary school, Deep has caused multiple problems in school, such as hitting and bullying other children, running out of classrooms, tearing other students’ class work, disobeying teachers and so forth. At home and at school, he perpetually seems to be in a ‘bad mood’ or tends to cry or get angry without enough reason. Parents complain that in the last two years, he has become “uncontrollable”. He does not listen to any instructions given by the parents and becomes verbally and physically abusive if house rules are enforced strictly.

Deep’s issues are concerning as they stop him from leading a normal, productive life. However Deep is fortunate to have parents who are aware and have taken the necessary measures to help Deep. Deep has had a comprehensive psychiatric and psychological evaluation done followed by appropriate medication and psychological intervention. Also Deep’s school is actively involved in his intervention plan.

However not all ‘emotionally disturbed’ children are so fortunate The fact is, that many such children may go undiagnosed and untreated for years.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act –IDEA defines emotional disturbance as follows:

“…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:

(A) An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.

(B) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.

(C) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.

(D) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

(E) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.”

Some of the characteristics and behaviors seen in children who have an emotional disturbance include:

  • Hyperactivity (short attention span, impulsiveness);
  • Aggression or self-injurious behavior (acting out, fighting);
  • Withdrawal (not interacting socially with others, excessive fear or anxiety);
  • Immaturity (inappropriate crying, temper tantrums, poor coping skills); and
  • Learning difficulties (academically performing below grade level).

Children with the most serious emotional disturbances may exhibit distorted thinking, excessive anxiety, bizarre motor acts, and abnormal mood swings.

Of course there would be children who are not emotionally disturbed who also may display some of these same characteristics and behaviors at some or the other time during their development. However, the main difference is that children with an emotional disturbance, continue to exhibit these behaviors over long periods of time.

Lot of research has gone to determine the actual cause/s of emotional disturbance in children. Several factors—heredity, brain disorder, diet, stress, and family functioning—have been suggested and vigorously researched too. However, as of now, researchers have not found that any of these factors are the direct cause of behavioral or emotional problems.

	Hyperactivity

Some therapeutic approaches towards emotionally disturbed children:

Behavioral Therapy: Also known as Behaviour Modification, this therapy module focuses on changing or reducing inappropriate behavior and developing more age appropriate behavior.

Cognitive Therapy: Cognitive therapy helps the child learn that it is emotions, feelings and moods that alter behavior. It helps the child to understand and become aware of his/her own inner feelings and thoughts and replace inappropriate thoughts with more appropriate and productive thoughts.

Play Therapy: Play therapy is used with younger children. Through the help of puppets, dolls and other toys, play allows children to explore their own feelings and thoughts and helps them enact their issues through role playing.

Art, Music, and Dance Therapy: The main benefit of these therapies is that it helps the child to explore his issues in a non threatening manner, through the medium of Art and Performing Art. Some of the benefits of these therapies is that they help in regulating emotional affect, improve both verbal communication and nonverbal communication and help reduce anxiety and improve emotional responsiveness.

However, over and above all this is a patient and supporting approach from significant others which would go a long way in helping these children.

Shital Ravi.

Founder Member & Counseling Psychologist.

Disha Counseling Center.

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