Strategies for Educating EH and SED Students

Teaching students classified as Emotionally Handicapped (EH) or Seriously Emotionally Disturbed (SED) in the inclusive classroom setting has been one of the most challenging experiences of my teaching career.  Statistically this group of students makes up only 8% of all of the disabilities under IDEA, however 80% of the students labeled as EH or SED are male students.  EH and SED students have difficulty with displaying appropriate behaviors and emotions, including facets of depression, aggression, withdrawal or other behaviors that may be disruptive or distracting to other students in the classroom.  These behaviors or actions have contributed to the EH or SED student often being academically unsuccessful.



Following many of the accommodations on the Individualize Education Plan is a starting place for helping these students be successful in class.  The accommodations that I have worked with previously include setting specific classroom rules and expectations directly for the student, and creating a preventative discipline plan.  For younger students, following a card based system like the “Stop Light Game” (green for great, yellow for warning, and red for stop) is one behavior strategy that helps students to visually see their behaviors in the classroom and it is a quick way to modify the behavior.  If the student is on red at the end of the day a consequence should be set in place.  Working together with the parents to use a similar system at home helps the student to be aware of their behaviors and the consequences that go with the behavior, both good and bad.

“The Good Student Game” is another positive preventative discipline option.  This game works great with younger and older students.   Students work in pairs during class to monitor each other’s behavior.  The teacher will indicate certain points during the class period when they evaluate each other’s behavior.  This can be done through a simple card with a check yes or no or percentages (example on the link above) which is then reviewed at the end of the class.

Get to Know the Student & Planning Ahead

Getting to know the student who is EH or SED is one of the most important aspects in helping the student to manage behaviors and to help them be academically successful.  This way, as a teacher, I know what the triggers both positive and negative behavior in a student.  This way you can plan the best approach for dealing with situations like incomplete homework, not performing well on a test, tattle tales, emotional shutdowns, and the like.  Using simple back-to-school style ice breakers will help in the “getting to know you “process.

After getting to know the student very well, this will help you to plan ahead for your lessons, activities, assessments, and tasks such as planning for the flow of the class schedule.  Planning ahead for group assignments, buddy pairs, classroom seating, ways of including the student, and time management can help the class run smoothly.  This also means having a plan ahead of time for when the EH or SED student has an outburst or withdrawal period. Other students need to understand that when the student is in withdrawal that the student may not want to be comforted or touched and may prefer to be left alone.  Students may also need a ‘cool off’ period where they go to use the restroom or to get a drink of water at the water fountain.  If a student has an outburst, the teacher has to have a plan to remove the other students from any harm (like a flying chair or fists).  Planning ahead may also include making academic changes to lesson plans, worksheets, tests, or quizzes.  There are many ways to assess mastery of content and lessons, test questions, or assignments may be modified based on the student’s learning style.  The teacher may adapt tests for special need students based on Bloom’s Taxonomy., for example, a well written multiple choice question may be as effective is assessing mastery as a short answer question.  Checklists are a great way to help to in preparing and planning ahead.

What other suggestions do you have in helping EH and SED students to be behaviorally and academically successful?  Feel free to share your tips, tricks, and links by commenting below.

Article By Laura Ketcham

Picture By woodleywonderworks

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