Emotionally Disturbed Children

August 8, 1973

Report Outline
Pressure for Education of Handicapped
Growth of Interest in Child Problems
Search for Answer to Emotional Ills
Special Focus

Pressure for Education of Handicapped

Nothing touches the heartstrings like the plight of the handicapped child. Innumerable fund-raising drives and service programs have counted on the instant sympathy aroused by the image the term invokes. But there is one class of handicapped children that until recently has benefitted little from this humane sensibility. These are the emotionally disturbed children, those whose handicap is manifested chiefly by erratic behavior and by inappropriate responses to the ordinary demands of day-to-day living. Such children are difficult to deal with in the home, in the school, and in the community generally.

The term “emotionally disturbed” is an omnibus one without sharply defined limits. It is applied over a wide range of deviations from the normal—from relatively mild conditions that will respond to sympathetic handling to severe psychiatric abnormalities. The emotionally disturbed child may be noisy and obstructive or frightened and withdrawn, he may clown around too much or spend too much time daydreaming. Children may be or do all of these things, of course, without being emotionally disturbed. It is only by the intensity and the persistence of such attributes that one begins to sense that these are something more serious than the transient vagaries of a normal child as he passes through developmental stages to maturity.

Many emotionally disturbed children look no different from normal, healthy children. Hence they are not always recognized as helpless victims of a crippling condition. Many are given to peculiar quirks of behavior that repel the uninitiated stranger, exasperate their teachers, and drive members of their families to distraction. In such cases, only professional persons specializing in this field or close relatives of the child can appreciate the dimensions of a disorder that handicaps the afflicted one no less than a physical infirmity.

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