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Behavior Contracts and Emotional Disturbance

Emotional Disturbance (ED) is an overarching term that can refer to both emotional and behavioral disturbances Emotional and Behavioral Disturbance is sometimes abbreviated EBD. This article is about emotional disturbance and the use of behavior contracts and behavior plans to assist in education.

According to the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) [Code of Federal Regulations, Title 34,
§300.7(c)(4)(i)], an Emotional Disturbance is:

"...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."

The term includes schizophrenia but not social maladjustment unless an emotional disturbance is also present.

Behavior Contract

When a student's behaviors interfere with his or her own and the classes' learning, some have found a behavior contract to be an effective tool. Here are some strategies that may work, depending on the child and the context:

o Videotape a situation in which the problematic behavior manifests. The child may see it differently with this  more "objective" view.

o Watch the videotape along with the child. Involve the child in identifying problematic behaviors

o Discuss alternatives to the behaviors that have been identified.

o Discuss rewards: what should be the outcomes for positive efforts.

o Discuss consequences: what should be the outcomes for lack of positive efforts.

Typically the agreed plan is written up and signed. It may form part of the student's IEP.

Behavior Support Plan

As an alternative to a behavior contract, some educators prefer a behavior support plan. It differs from a behavior contract in that it is a tool in which responsibility for behavioral change is shared by the student and the student's support team. Whereas a behavior contract is remedial, a behavior support plan is instructional. This tool may or may not be attached to the IEP.

The parts of the plan differ from a contract. It may include the following:

o Descriptions of the behavior that is being addressed

o Goals for behavior with a description that helps identify success

o Plans for instruction and support for the behavioral goals, including teaching of replacement skills, as applicable

o Prevention strategies to help the child by altering the context. This may include changes to environment, personnel, activities, types of support, prompts, expectations, etc.

o Consequences for various possible outcomes

o A timeline, with a plan for review and reconsideration as necessary

o Suggested follow-ups

o Any context for this plan such as how it fits with other short-term or long-term strategies for the student's education

Written by Mary Elizabeth

Sources Used for This Article