A student is eligible under emotional disturbance if she exhibits one or more of the following characteristics, over a long period of time and to a marked degree, which adversely affects educational performance:
- An inability to learn which cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors;
- An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers;
- Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances exhibited in several situations;
- A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression; and
- A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.
[34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.8(c)(4); 5 C.C.R. Sec. 3030(b)(4).]
Your child does not have to be diagnosed with or meet a clinical mental health definition of emotional disturbance to be eligible for special education under the category of Emotional Disturbance. The federal and state special education eligibility criteria for emotional disturbance are the only criteria that a student must meet to be eligible for special education services.
The term “emotional disturbance” specifically includes schizophrenia, but excludes students who are “socially maladjusted”. [5 C.C.R. Sec. 3030(b)(4).] The law does not explain what it means by the term “socially maladjusted”, which has caused confusion. Moreover, “emotional disturbance” is not a recognized psychiatric diagnostic condition and a student need not have a psychiatric label or diagnosis in order to be eligible under Emotional Disturbance.