POST-SCHOOL OUTCOMES FOR STUDENTS WITH EMOTIONAL AND
Jolivette, Janine Peck Stichter, C. Michael Nelson, Terrance M.
Scott, and Carl J. Liaupsin
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 with
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
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
school teams with built-in administrative support
of prevention-focused, validated strategies (e.g., direct instruction
and social skills instruction on expected appropriate school behaviors)
based on team decisions
both appropriate and inappropriate behaviors with the contexts
in which the behaviors occur
reinforcement of and focus on appropriate behaviors within multiple
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 activities.
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 needs include
community agencies that can assist in meeting one's financial
employment training from multiple work sites to assist in the
decision-making process regarding vocational choices after graduation
counseling agencies to assist in addressing the life-stresses
the individual may experience.
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
living options in the community
employment to financially support the goal
for the cost of living by oneself
individuals who can assist in difficult situations (e.g., rental
disputes, requests for repairs).
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.
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Digests are in the public domain and may be freely reproduced and
disseminated, but please acknowledge your source. This digest was
prepared with funding from the Office of Special Education Programs
(OSEP), U.S. Department of Education, under Contract No. ED-99-CO-0026.
The opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect
the positions or policies of OSEP or the Department of Education.
with permission from:
The ERIC Clearinghouse
on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC)
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