What does Social Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties mean

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Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (SEBD): refers to the three potential areas of developmental difficulty of a child: to understand, express, engage and acknowledge in a given context. The dictionary defines them as:

* Social - living together or enjoying life in communities or organized groups.

* Emotional - actuated by emotion rather than reason.

* Behavioural - the way the person behaves towards other people.

* Difficulty - an effort that is inconvenient.

Brief history: Earlier children experiencing difficulties with social interactions, bad conduct disorders, children exhibiting high levels of frustrations due to peer- rejections/maladjusted, aggressive behaviour or inappropriate behaviour in adjusting to school environment were regarded as 'abnormal' (e.g. Dodge , 1980) and 'immature'(e.g. Selman, 1980) social cognition according to Happe and Frith (1996).

'It is not what we think or feel but what we do that makes us maladjusted….continued severity anxiety may get the better of people and induce them to take desperate ill-considered action which is against their interest but it is the action and not the anxiety which ranks as maladjusted.'(Scott 1982).(http://www.talklink.org/C4/content/chapter4)

The word 'Social' has been introduced to Emotional, Behavioural difficulties (EBD) in the year 1998. Nevertheless, children experiencing SEBD are considered with Special Educational Needs (SEN) by the 'Code of Practice, (2001)'.

SEBD is determined as an interesting area of enquiry in recent years. The literature covers Education, Health and Social Disadvantage as its three major perspectives.

However, this essay centers on school experiences of children (Early Years and Primary School Children) with SEBD from an Education perspective.

The term 'SEBD' displays a predominant role in schools where pupils being identified for having difficulties which can be broadly observed in two types. Heneker, S (2005) explores an interesting way when making a distinction of these disorders. First, the less-obvious disorders such as anxiety, school phobia, prolonged stress (due to various reasons such as transitions, communication difficulties, depression). Secondly, the well-known disorders such as, conduct disorders, hyperkinetic disorders. However, it is also possible that these disorders cover a wide range of abilities, including some of the learning difficulties which can further lead on to SEBD.

So what are the characteristics of the children with SEBD? How do they differ from their peers? What are the causes?

Characteristics : Children with SEBD are more likely to be disruptive and disturbing, some are hyperactive and some lack concentration; some are popularly found having poor or immature social skills or personality disorders and some of them have learning difficulties, quite a few exhibit challenging behaviours, mainly due to other complex special needs. The disruptive and disturbing behaviour could be temporary or permanent which can become as a barrier towards their ability to learn as they experience restlessness, social withdrawal, poor attention and isolation according to Teacher Training Agency's National SEN Specialist Standards in 1999 (Teacher Training Agency,1999). (http://www.talklink.org/C4/content/chapter4/4_1_3.htm)

Also these children are subjected towards low levels of self esteem, they lack in

Regulating their emotions 'emotion regulation is a form of mental - control' states Parrot (2001) in his book of 'Emotions in Social Psychology'. Hence display disruptive anti-social behaviour or aggressive behaviour due to anger and frustration.

Developing social cognition which can lead on to failure in learning at school, as a result of emotional damage.

Behavioural disorders :

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD): the three major factors that manifest ADHD are: Hyperactivity, Impulsivity and inappropriate levels of Attention or simply Poor Attention. The research in this area as estimated by Gillberg, C. (2005), has found that at least 3% of school children have severe form.

Opositional Defiant Disorder (ODD): It is very closely associated with ADHD and also other disorders like Tourett's syndrome, and considered as a co-morbid problem in preschool or school aged children with ADHD. They are at a high risk of antisocial behaviour as well as displaying poor conduct.

Tourett's syndrome: Gillberg, C. (2005) mentions that at least 10% of school age children are affected by motor or vocal tics, or a combination of both. Recent population studies estimate that  at least 1% of general population  of school age children are affected by a clinically handicapping Tourett's syndrome.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): As Tourett's syndrome, OCD affects (1%) of school age children. They display obsessions and compulsions. Initially it was regarded as a 'neurosis', however it is now considered as a 'neuropsychiatric disorder' states Gillberg, C. (2005).

Emotional disorders: Undoubtedly, it can be agreed on what Cross (2004) states, that anxiety and depression are often exhibit co-morbidity in children who experience disruptive behaviour disorders ( e.g. ADHD); where one of the other disorders could include 'Selective Mutism', which is considered as a social anxiety. For instance, their spoken language is considered to be limited; though they have the ability to speak, and tend to remain quiet by choice.

Other disorders include Developmental Disorders (like Autism seen as a Pervasive Developmental Disorder) and Reactive Attachment Disorder, Schizophrenia, eating disorder and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

Today in UK what necessary provisions and strategies are undertaken to raise children's achievement level? What evidence does the literature provide to evaluate the strategies being practiced by schools?

Strategies to help children with 'SEBD' in raising their achievement at primary school level.

The emphasis is on, 'How to identify the children with SEBD?. Usually the diagnosis is carried by the Special Education Needs procedure Code of Practice (2001), which focuses on the actions to be taken to meet individual needs of children who is been identified with difficulties.

Davis et al, (2002) cited one in ten children identified with psychological and social problems in UK are most likely to be sufficiently impaired or disturbed to incline towards psychosocial disorder (Meltzer et al, 2000). More over Davis argues other authors by not challenging various difficulties are interrelated are more inclined towards emotional and behavioural problems rather agreeing that children having educational difficulties are more likely the ones with conduct disorders, approximately two-thirds indicating the need for intervention.

Here comes the vital role of early intervention programs that not only diagnoses and identifies the level of children's developmental needs at an early stage but also aid, by preventing remediating existing developmental problems or preventing their occurrence.

What is required to notice at the Primary Schools as well as the Early Years Providers, is how they are currently engaging in the process of implementing different strategies and approaches with an aim of supporting individuals?. In UK all the schools have to work towards reducing the chances of emotional and behaviour difficulties in children and they can do this confidently by liaising with other agencies or by adapting multi- agency working style.

Other structured strategy include Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL), as one of the programs being practiced at schools for promoting the development of social and emotional skills, attendance, positive behaviour, learning and the mental health of all children. It is widely noticed that schools have made a remarkable progress where the children were engaging by interacting with their peers outdoors and indoors. Henceforth, the SEAL framework is more likely to be a successful program in meeting specific needs of a child. www.teachernet.gov.uk/seal

PALS- a program to develop Social Skills for children aged 3-6. It emphasis and aims towards building confidence in children and participate actively in social contexts. The main purpose of this program is to teach social skills such as listening, sharing, taking turns, dealing with feelings of fear, coping up with frustration, dealing with emotions effectively, etc. It is accepted by early childhood psychologists and NSW (New South Wales, Australia, Department of Health) that PALS program reduces problem behaviour and increases social skills significantly for children aged 3-6 years. www.palsprogram.co.uk

Explanations of different research studies: The ability to understand ones own emotional states and others in predicting behaviour which is called 'Theory of mind' plays a vital role in social development of a young child. 'It is usually by the age of four, a child is generally expected to develop the ability, that what others believe about the world are different of his own and different from reality (Wimmer and Perner, 1983). However 'A number of empirical studies show that 2-3 year olds appreciate that others have desires and thoughts and can use accurate mental state language' (work reviewed by Wellman, (1993)' explains Happe and Frith (1996).

'I 'm gonna beat you!' SNAP! : an observational paradigm for assessing young children's disruptive behaviour in competitive play has been developed by Hughes et al.,(2002). Initially the assessment on behavioural problems was based questionnaires ratings and also self reported measures, direct observations are found more difficult to standardize. Harris (2008) highlights how the SNAP game (for children of 5 years old) meets the four requirements such as sensitivity, generalisability, validity and replicability.

SNAP is recognized as a versatile: multipurpose, flexible, resourceful, valuable tool as this game has the ability to affect self- perceptions and exposes children to experience mild stress(losing the game can cause frustration). Harris explains its potential usage by other researchers in their studies, for example (Murray et al., 2001) to study childhood vulnerability to depression, SNAP supplemented to assess depressive cognitions in young children.

Evaluations: Joseph A. Durlak (1995) found that the work done by Lazar, I, & Darlington, R.(1982) based on the results of experimental children who did significantly well in mathematics from their study on the long term effects of early intervention based on school dropout rate, special education placement and grade retention, evaluated across 17 programs, where 26% of children were the dropouts, 32% of children were retained in grade and 48.5% of children have been placed in special education classes.

Also Durlak (1996) states on the other hand, Slavin et al. (1994) observes through his study on most successful early intervention programs, that 'more interventions produce much more limited results'.

Harris also studied the correlation ratings between SNAP ratings of disruptive behaviour and questionnaire ratings of aggression, delinquency and externalizing behaviour and found that the correlations were stronger in boys than for girls. On the other hand, Harris mentions the previous work of Hughes et al., (2001) as the group differences between young 'hard to manage' children (approximately 90% ADHD symptoms) and their typically developing peers (nearly 50% ADHD symptoms) were stable.


The 'SEN - Code of Practice, (DfES,2001)' states that specialized behavioural and cognitive approaches; flexible teaching arrangements; help with development of social competence and emotional maturity; provision of class and school systems which control or censure negative or difficult behaviours and encourage positive behaviour, as some of their provisions for 'Behaviour, emotional and social development' and are discussed in relation to behaviour and possible interventions that have to be practiced at schools.

The research provides evidence on the early intervention programs, by pointing out the possible risks of ignoring the developmental delays for children at primary level. Also, it highlights the importance of identifying difficulties of a child at an early stage and undertaking preventive measures to minimize difficulties associated to their behaviour and emotions.

Generally the early intervention programs dominantly improve the growth and development of children experiencing difficulties (e.g. Language development - including communication needs and Moral development - including, social and emotional behavioural needs being met). Very truly, it is been noticed as the more it gets prolonged in identifying and tackling any concerns regarding these difficulties, the greater would be the effect in overcoming them.

The research in this particular field indicates that intervention programs that were carried for a longer period of time with an intensive participation of the parents or primary care givers, children and the trainer, were the ones which became successful).

These programs expand the quality of nurture by their primary care givers and educators from school and other settings. It is very clear to state that the primary intervention programs include many factors in providing specific- structured-training to provide effective child rearing practices in overcoming such developmental difficulties among young children, suggest literature from the 'Intervening Early and Current Interventions Used by Primary Schools' and 'Sure Start'.

Therefore, the research indicates the need to encourage diverse participants for further research, other than public sectors of educational, health and social service or charity organizations and to include clinical psychologists, community developers, epidemiologists, medics, etc.