The teacher faces many difficult choices in the classroom. While attention to the individual student is essential, there is also an obligation to make certain that all learners in the classroom are afforded that opportunity. When a student is disruptive, it has an effect on the classroom dynamics and ultimately the learning outcomes for the classroom. The rise of the inclusion movement means the teachers are confronted with children with emotional and behavioral disorders more frequently, making it essential that teachers learn effective strategies to teach these special populations (Salmon, 2006).

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The child who is emotionally disturbed or behaviorally disordered is considered disabled because their condition will limit their opportunities in life (Howard, 2009). The connotative meaning of emotionally disturbed is more accepted by society, because it suggests an underlying illness that the child cannot control. Behaviorally disordered simply indicates a “bad child”, meaning that their behaviors are controllable. The behaviorally disordered child is perceived as having the better chance in the classroom because they can control their behaviors.

A behaviorally disordered child will demonstrate the unwanted behaviors persistently over time. The legal definition of an emotional disturbance is a child that has one or more of a certain set of characteristics. These include inability to build or maintain interpersonal relationships, inappropriate behaviors or feelings, pervasive depression or unhappiness, and diagnosed schizophrenia (Public Schools of North Carolina, 2015). Behavioral disorders include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (Adams, n.d.).

The teachers and parents should refer the child to a professional who is more qualified to make a diagnosis. Teachers and parents may suspect a condition, but they are not licensed, nor qualified to make the final determination.