Working to make a difference for children
who display challenging behavior



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

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

Behavioral Examples

Behaviors that may raise concern can be manifested as either internalizing (withdrawn) or externalizing (acting out). Internalizing behaviors reflect a pattern of avoidance of social contact, depressed behavior, and/or preoccupation with self. Externalizing behaviors are indicative of a pattern of acting out against external factors. The following examples are intended as a frame of reference. They illustrate the range and variety of problem behaviors that students may exhibit in the school setting.

(Note: The following list of behaviors is not exhaustive; it does not include all of the behaviors that may indicate internalizing or externalizing behavioral problems.)


  • Exhibits sad affect, depression, and feelings of worthlessnessHas auditory or visual hallucinations Cannot get mind off certain thoughts, ideas, or situations Cannot keep self from engaging in repetitive and/or useless actions Suddenly cries, cries frequently, or displays totally unexpected and atypical affect for the situation Complains of severe headaches or other somatic problems (stomach aches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting) as a result of fear or anxiety Talks of killing self-reports suicidal thoughts and/or is preoccupied with death Shows decreased interest in activities which were previously of interest Is excessively teased, verbally or physically abused, neglected and/or avoided by peers Has severely restricted activity levels shows signs of physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse
  • Exhibits other specific behaviors such as: withdrawal, avoidance of social interactions, and/or lack of personal care to an extent which prevents the development or maintenance of satisfactory interpersonal relationships


  • Displays recurring pattern or aggression toward objects or personsArgues excessively Forces the submission of others through physical and/or verbal means Is noncompliant with reasonable request Exhibits persistent pattern of tantrums Exhibits persistent patterns of stealing, lying, and/or cheating Frequently exhibits lack of self control and acting out behaviors
  • Exhibits other specific behavior(s) that intrudes upon other people, staff, self, or the physical environment to an extent which prevents the development or maintenance of satisfactory interpersonal relationships.

Any of the above behaviors could lead to the identification of a student as EBD only if the behavior clearly interferes with the student's educational performance; and the behavior: 1) is exhibited across settings; 2) is exhibited over a long period of time; 3) is exhibited to a marked degree, and 4) supportive educational assistance specifically designed to address the behavior has not been successful. (Discussion of those factors and suggested qualifying criteria)