The Reading Matrix
Vol. 5, No. 2, September 2005

Creating Effective Programs for Students with Emotional and Behaviour Disorder: Interdisciplinary Approaches for Adding Meaning and Hope to Behaviour Change Interventions.
Vern Jones, Elizabeth Dohrn and Cory Dunn
Pearson Education, Inc
2004
ISBN: 0-205-32201-8
431 Pages
$73.20

Reviewed by:Ramesh Kumar Mishra
All India Institute of Speech and Hearing
Mysore, India

 

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This critical survey of the last two decade's of research in the area of educational and social implications of children and adolescents with mild to profound emotional and behavioral disorders will project Creating Effective Programmes for Students with Emotional and Behavioural Disorder: Interdisciplinary Approaches for Adding Meaning and Hope to Behaviour Change Interventions as a top priority among special education researchers and educational policy makers. What makes this segment of children unique is that their problems are neither completely neurological nor psychiatric, which makes placing the children in mainstream classrooms difficult. The book under review primarily deals with the larger domain of creating effective training programmes for such children and covers important theoretical debates in special education. The authors have been working professionals and teachers with decades of experience and they bring their very practical understanding into the writing of the book with clarity, theoretical sophistication, and compassion. The book is written primarily for special education teachers and professionals who deal with students having emotional and behavioral problems on an everyday basis. Other interested professionals like clinical psychologists and speech language therapists will benefit from the contents of the book as it demonstrates many alternative classroom based therapy techniques that have been found to be effective with such children.

There are nine independent but interconnected chapters divided into four basic theme areas; each chapter is further divided into many smaller units with summaries attached to them. There is an extensive reference list that may be very useful to researchers, as the book covers a wide range of contemporary research findings. There are also many tables, diagrams, summery charts and flow charts used in each chapter to help in quick assimilation of ideas.

Part One has two chapters dealing with key issues and conceptual understandings related to students with emotional and behavioral problems. Chapter One gives an overview of the problems in educational system while relating it to teachers and other rehabilitation professionals, and the way they can prepare effective training programmes for such students. This is the recurring theme of the book and the authors argue it from several theoretical points of view in other chapters also. At the end of the first chapter, the authors provide the conceptual framework of the book. The second chapter is rather devoted to the critical discussion of different developmental theorists like Maslow and Erikson and how their ideas can be useful in understanding basic emotional and behavioral developments. The connection between social relationships and psychological background of students with emotional and behavioral disorders, and the everyday problems they experience is also discussed. But the authors are clever enough to distance themselves from specific theories while discussing practical classroom-based approaches for effective instructional programmes. This approach of organizing the main ideas in the text makes the book useful for practical applications.

The theme of Part Two is educational policies concerning diagnosis, referral, and eligibility criteria of students receiving special education support.  The authors give much thought to the problem of wrong referrals and suggest ways of valid assessments. Factors such as cultural sensitivity, class size, and teacher’s awareness are explored in this connection. There is tremendous variability between schools, school districts and states regarding the number of students identified and served as emotionally and behaviorally disturbed. The chapter covers discussion on classroom management programmes and multicultural issues in assessment that are very important. The research makes clear that cultural mismatch between the teacher and the student having emotional and behavioral problems will lead to unsatisfactory results in any rehabilitation programmes.

Part Three deals with the very nature of social relationships as they are negotiated between the child with emotional and behavioral problems and the adult. This is important for the purpose of effective intervention. The authors argue for a school environment that does not make the student feel socially isolated. Chapter Five examines the methods for creating and monitoring classroom behavioral standards and providing reinforcements in assisting students who are in the intervention programme. There is extensive discussion on requisite staff skills and therapy plans that can be adopted for successful implementation of intervention programmes in classrooms. This comprehensive chapter provides many instructional and therapy models, which have worked successfully in the rehabilitation of children with emotional and behavioral problems. In this connection one important issue is the long-term psychosocial outcomes of the students who have been receiving treatments for emotional and behavioral disorders when they grow up. The authors discuss this issue with several primary research findings that show such students often remain life long sufferers and acquire socially handicapped personalities. The chapter also discusses methods to adopt curriculum, real life problem solving methods, and literacy skills development when designing a successful instructional programme. There are also many timesaving mechanisms for following instructional achievements that are well presented in the form of usable proforma and tables. The concern of taking disciplinary actions against such students who pose a serious threat for the entire classroom is well presented.

Part Four focuses on developing individualized learning plans and functional behavior assessment plans when dealing with students having emotional and behavioral problems. Individualized tailored programmes are very important in this area for rehabilitation, as there is random variation of the degree of deficits and symptoms. Chapter Seven focuses on how to conduct a functional behavior assessment to determine the factors within the environment that may be eliciting or reinforcing irresponsible student behaviors. The authors present and analyze a few case studies where such specifically individualized programmes have worked. Chapter Eight focuses on intervention programmes designed to meet students’ developmental and clinical issues. Apart from many other associated symptoms, such students may show severe psychiatric disorders that require the help of mental health professionals. This dimension of the problem shifts the focus from the classroom to clinic. The authors argue for a teamwork model where educators regularly collaborate with other mental health professionals for effective implication of programmes

The last chapter is on collaborating with families and social service agencies when implementing behavior modification programmes. It is a well-known fact that parents and guardians play an incredibly important role in influencing their children’s behavior both within the school and community. The authors provide a list of guidelines that special education teachers should follow while discussing a student’s performance with a family member or caregiver. Teachers should present well-designed intervention programmes to the parents and make them a part of the rehabilitation team. The authors propose the creation of parent support groups inside the school with whom various associated agencies may also fruitfully collaborate. The chapter ends with a discussion of case studies.

This book is going to be a standard reference source for both parents and researchers in the field of special education for long time. Its main strength lies in appropriate selection of topics, correct use of research based evidences and a very broad view of the field. The authors have been able to successfully articulate key problem areas in the intervention programmes of students with emotional and behavioral disorders. The information in the book is very well researched and up to date. After reading this book one gets the true picture of problems of such students and how severe it can be. Special education teachers with understanding and, more importantly, compassion can apply the methods that the authors prescribe for approaching various kinds of problems of children with emotional and behavioral disorders in regular classroom.

 

Ramesh Kumar Mishra is a lecturer in clinical linguistics at the All India Institute of Speech and Hearing, Mysore, India. His research interests focus on the syntactic and cognitive development in mentally retarded children.