ERIC Identifier: ED447616
Publication Date: 2000-08-00
Author: Jolivette, Kristine - Stichter, Janine Peck - Nelson, C.
Michael - Scott, Terrance M. - Liaupsin, Carl J.
Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education Arlington VA.
Improving Post-School Outcomes for Students with Emotional and
Behavioral Disorders. ERIC/OSEP Digest E597.
Individuals with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) experience the
least favorable outcomes of any group of individuals with disabilities.
Advocates for this population are concerned about the degree to which
individuals with EBD are able to contribute positively to society given their
challenging behaviors and the manner in which schools typically perceive and
interact with them. This digest describes the post-school outcomes for students
with EBD in education, employment, and social relationships. It also presents
several school-based strategies to improve the post-school outcomes for students
Students with EBD often display characteristics that do not support success
in or out of school. They may not be able to maintain appropriate social
relationships with others; they may have academic difficulties in multiple
content areas; and they may display chronic behavior problems, including
noncompliance, aggression, and disrespect toward authority figures.
These characteristics are exacerbated by the tendency of schools to place
individuals with EBD in settings that are more restrictive than those of any
other group of students with disabilities. On the other hand, research shows
that placing these students in inclusive settings is not sufficient to increase
either appropriate behavior or acceptance by peers. In addition, policies such
as "zero tolerance," in which students are suspended or expelled from school
because of certain behaviors, may place students with EBD outside of any
educational setting and beyond the reach of educators who could help them
address their difficulties.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
Individuals with EBD characteristically have experienced academic
difficulties during their school careers. For example, learning disabilities
frequently co-exist with EBD and result in problems mastering academic content
(Coleman & Vaughn, 2000). The connection between academic and social
behaviors appears to be reciprocal, with failure in one precipitating failure in
the other. These students also have fewer opportunities to experience success in
school and fewer instructional interactions with their teachers. Consequently
they receive less exposure to academic content.
As a result of their academic difficulties, many students with EBD do not
finish high school. After age and parent income level, the best predictor that
these students will drop out is a lack of competency with basic skills,
including math and reading. In fact, research shows that more than 50% of
students with EBD drop out (Chesapeake Institute, 1994).
Of the students who do graduate, relatively few complete, or even pursue,
post-secondary education. Of a sample of individuals with EBD who left high
schools in the state of Washington in 1985, researchers found that after ten
years, only 28.6% had completed a post-secondary program, compared with 66.9% of
students without disabilities (Malmgren, Edgar & Neel 1998).
Data from several longitudinal studies (Wagner, D'Amico, Marder, Newman,
& Blackorby, 1992; Malmgren et al., 1998) suggest that, in comparison to
workers with no disabilities and those with other disabilities, workers with EBD
experience longer delays in obtaining employment after graduation from school,
lower percentages of employment after leaving school, and lower employment rates
overall. Those who work may hold multiple, short-term jobs rather than a single
job over time. In addition, individuals with EBD are more likely to be employed
part-time rather than full-time and to earn less than individuals with or
without other disabilities.
Individuals with EBD have more problems in social adjustment than other
groups of individuals with disabilities (Wagner et al., 1992). They may be
unable to form relationships with people who will positively contribute to their
successful independence or are in a position to provide personal, professional,
and financial support (clergy, employers, counselors). If they have
difficulties, or if the social networks don't exist, they are more likely to
experience negative interactions within their communities. Individuals with EBD
are also more likely to be arrested and/or incarcerated.
IMPROVING POST-SCHOOL OUTCOMES
Effective social skills instruction involves individual planning (Scott &
Nelson, 1998). Social skills training is one of the most effective interventions
for the most challenging behaviors, but only when it teaches specific behaviors
to students based on their individual needs.
Effective social skills instruction typically involves both direct
instruction and teacher mediation. Direct instruction identifies the specific
social skills needing development and provides teacher-directed instruction and
practice across natural settings. Teacher-mediated strategies rely on
teacher-prompted interactive behavior that is reinforced for appropriate
responses. The goals of such curricula include allowing the individual to
initiate and develop positive social relationships, facilitating the
individual's ability to effectively cope with behavioral expectations of daily
living, and providing the basis for effective self-determination. Although
logically a primary area for instruction for students with EBD, few formal
social skills curricula exist in current educational programs for these
Mediation and Conflict Resolution
In peer mediated strategies, a peer without disabilities is trained by an
adult to interact effectively with a student with disabilities. Following
training, the two students meet for pre-selected social activities and the
trained peer models, reinforces, and prompts appropriate social responses and
behavior from the target student. Peer-mediated procedures remove the adult from
the intervention, increasing the probability that the student will initiate
interactions and not just respond to prompts, in an environment conducive to
ongoing, age-appropriate interactions. Using peers allows positive behavior to
be naturally rewarded, increasing the chances that positive behavior changes
will last and be used in different situations.
POSITIVE BEHAVIORAL SUPPORT
A new approach to intervention
for students with EBD and those at risk for behavioral problems is Positive
Behavioral Support (PBS) (Sugai et al., 2000). PBS is based on the premise that
schools address the full range of behavioral issues and needs of the student
population, including strategies for preventing challenging behavior and
intervening when such behavior does occur. Interventions based on PBS also focus
on teaching desired replacement behaviors that serve the same functions as
undesired behavior. School-wide interventions are prerequisite to the success of
more specific and individualized interventions and programs. Effective
implementation of PBS strategies is based on the following:
* problem-solving school teams with built-in administrative support,
* implementation of prevention-focused, validated strategies (e.g., direct
instruction and social skills instruction on expected appropriate school
behaviors) based on team decisions,
* matching both appropriate and inappropriate behaviors with the contexts in
which the behaviors occur, and
* systematic reinforcement of and focus on appropriate behaviors within
multiple school environments.
Another strategy employed to improve
post-school outcomes for individuals with disabilities is vocational training.
The School-to-Work Opportunities Act, passed in 1994, focuses on coordinated
efforts between schools and the community to design and provide an appropriate,
individualized education for individuals with disabilities, including those with
EBD, that smoothly and successfully moves them from the school environment to
the work environment. This act and other school efforts focus on providing
students with EBD with the skills that employers seek. Thus, while still in
school, individuals with EBD are provided with specific job training and
experiences through vocational work placements, job coaching, and other related
According to P.L. 105-17, the 1997
Amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, schools must
write and implement a transition plan for all students with disabilities who are
14 years old or older. A transition plan details the individual's and family's
post-school goals specific to employment and independent living. Areas of focus
typically include adult services, supported employment, independent living
options, and post-secondary education. In addition, a transition plan focuses on
the individual's present needs. For individuals with EBD, examples of goals and
* identifying community agencies that can assist in meeting one's financial
* gaining employment training from multiple work sites to assist in the
decision-making process regarding vocational choices after graduation, and
* identifying counseling agencies to assist in addressing the life-stresses
the individual may experience.
Transition planning often includes self-advocacy and and how to set realistic
personal and professional goals. For example, if one goal is to live
independently in an apartment, then he or she will need to be taught to
* identify living options in the community,
* secure employment to financially support the goal,
* budget for the cost of living by oneself, and
* identify individuals who can assist in difficult situations (e.g., rental
disputes, requests for repairs).
More and more individuals with EBD are
receiving integrated services designed through wrap-around planning. In essence,
wrap-around plans match individual and family needs with community agencies and
opportunities. Services commonly used by individuals with EBD include
counseling; financial counseling; job training, mentoring, and coaching; and
health services (Karp, 1996). In providing integrated services to these persons
before they complete school, it is important that appropriate community supports
and contacts be in place to help the individual achieve post-school success.
Current research efforts in the provision of wrap-around planning are validating
the long-term benefits possible with this strategy for individuals with EBD.
Chesapeake Institute. (1994, September).
National agenda for achieving better results for children and youth with serious
emotional disturbance. Washington, DC: Department of Education, Office of
Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Office of Special Education
Programs. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service Number ED 376 690.) Available for
a fee through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS) 800.443.3742.
Coleman, M., & Vaughn, S. (2000). Reading interventions for students with
emotional/behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 25, 93-105.
Karp, N. (1996). Individualized wrap-around services for children with
emotional, behavior, and mental disorders. In G.H. Singer, L.E. Powers, &
A.L. Olson (Eds.). Redefining family support (pp.291-310). Baltimore, MD: Paul
H. Brooks Publishing Co.
Malmgren, K., Edgar, E., & Neel, R.S. (1998). Postschool status of youths
with behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 23, 257-263.
Scott, T.M., & Nelson, C.M. (1998). Confusion and failure in facilitating
generalized social responding in the school setting: Sometimes 2 + 2 = 5.
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Sugai, G., Horner, R. H., Dunlap, G., Hieneman, M., Lewis, T. J., Nelson, C.
M., Scott, T., Liaupsin, C., Sailor, W., Turnbull, A. P. Turnbull, H.R.,
Wickham, D., Wilcox, B., & Ruef, M. (2000). Applying positive behavior
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Behavior Interventions, 2, 131-143.
Wagner, M., D'Amico, R., Marder, C., Newman, L., & Blackorby, J. (1992).
What happens next? Trends in postschool outcomes of youth with disabilities. The
Second Comprehensive Report from the National Longitudinal Transition Study of
Special Education Students. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International. (ERIC Document
Reproduction Service Number ED 356 603.) Available for a fee through the ERIC
Document Reproduction Service (EDRS) 800.443.3742.