Working to make a difference for children
who display challenging behavior



Kentucky Emotional-Behavioral Disability:
Technical Assistance Manual: Behavioral Characteristics

The EBD Task Force was established by the Kentucky Department of Education in 1987 to guide Kentucky's educational systems change efforts for students with or at risk of developing emotional and behavioral disabilities. The multidisciplinary, multi-agency EBD Task Force worked for five years to create a practical, objective definition of the student population and procedural guidelines to assist school districts in the screening and identification of students for services under the EBD label.

Return to Definition of EBD

Characteristic I

"Severe deficits in social competence which impair interpersonal relationships with adults or peers".

Students identified as EBD using this criterion demonstrate severe types of inappropriate social behaviors and/or deficits in social skills.

These behaviors and/or deficits may or may not clearly interfere with academic progress. However, they do clearly interfere with the student's social/emotional development and impair to a significant degree the development and maintenance of satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and adults. This characteristic enables students to be identified as EBD who may be making acceptable academic progress, but who continue to demonstrate severe deficits in social competence to the extent that interpersonal relationships cannot be developed or maintained.

Key Questions

In determining the student's social competence the following questions should be addressed:

  • Is the student's level of social development within a reasonable range of expectations based upon normal developmental stages?
  • Is the student's level of social development the result of a lack of appropriate environmental experiences or other disabilities? If so, have these disabilities been addressed?
  • Is there evidence to suggest that the student's current deficits in social competence have existed over a long period of time?
  • Is there evidence to support that the student's social reactions are more intense/extreme or passive/apathetic than those of peers in his or her cultural reference group in the same situations?

Characteristic II

"Severe deficits in academic performance which are not commensurate with the student's ability levels and are not solely the result of intellectual, sensory, or other health factors, but are related to the students social-emotional problems".

To be identified as EBD under this characteristic the emotional-behavioral condition must directly and specifically interfere with the student's academic progress. There are two areas of concern:

1) The emotional-behavioral condition must clearly interfere with the student's ability to profit from instruction. Students who are making adequate academic progress as evidenced by achievement tests, report cards, daily work samples, curriculum-based assessment measures, and so on, should not be identified as EBD under this characteristic.

2) Students whose emotional-behavioral problems might be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health problems should not be identified as EBD unless specific interventions have been implemented with respect to those problems, and the emotional-behavioral condition continues to exist. (Specific interventions refers to the implementation of procedures which previously have proven effective for students with similar problems).

Key Questions

In determining the existence of a severe academic deficit, the following questions should be addressed:

  • Is the student performing below reasonable academic expectations for his/her peer or cultural reference group? If so, does the search for the cause of this performance point strongly to the emotional-behavioral problems?
  • Do the student's problems appear to affect academic performance to a greater degree than similar problems affect the performance of peers?
  • Is the student receiving passing grades? Has there been regular growth in academic achievement? Has the student been retained at any grade level?
  • Do the problems continue to exist after specific interventions have been implemented which relate to any intellectual, sensory or health problems