Emotional Impairments

Emotional Impairments
Collection of Exceptional Experiences
Erin McNary
Education 225 8:00 am
Many of the impairments and disabilities that we have talked about in
Exceptional Child are ones that are easily caught due to a child’s behavior,
social interaction, or academic performance. This is not the case for many
students who are emotionally impaired.
This semester I have been
broadening my knowledge base about children with emotional impairments, by
both observation and listening to experts in the field. Professor Wolthuis
came to speak to our class and share his knowledge.
I have also been
exposed to EI in my field placement and summer school experiences. All of
this has helped me to understand what an emotional impairment is.
Defining an Emotional Impairment can be difficult.
Here is a summary of how the Michigan State Board of
Education defines EI.
 The emotionally impaired shall be determined through
manifestation of behavioral problems primarily in the affective domain, over
an extended period of time, which adversely affects the person’s education
to the extent that the person cannot profit from regular learning
experiences without special education support. The problems in behaviors
manifested by one or more of the following characteristics:
a) Inability to build or maintain interpersonal relationships within the
b.) Inappropriate behavior or feelings under normal circumstandards.
c.) Generally unhappy or depressed.
d.) Development of fears or physical symptoms relating to personal or
school problems.
May also include schizophrenia or other similar disorders.
Does not include socially maladjusted or behaviors related to intellectual,
sensory, or health factors.
First Impressions
The first time I was introduced to emotional impairments was quite a
shock. I was working at summer school as a teacher’s aide in a 2 nd grade
little boy named Chris.
old and still cried when
dropped him off for the
working with him one on
would start crying if I
to try an answer again. I
classroom was a
He was eight years
day. When I was
one during math he
told him he needed
didn’t understand
what was going on.
None of the
other students had
trouble as Chris did. His behavior was disruptive to the entire class. My
first reaction to Chris was that of disgust. I didn’t feel it was fair that he
controlled the mood of the class. It wasn’t until later that someone told me
that Chris was EI.
I spent the rest of the summer trying to read Chris’s moods and so
that we would avoid his screeching cries. I now wish someone had told me
how to properly deal with Chris, but I don’t believe many of the teachers
knew what to do either. Having this experience has really made me want to
be more prepared for the difficulties I may face.
Professor Wolthuis
Professor Wolthuis is one of Hope’s experts on emotional impairments.
The day he came to talk with our class he showed “Cipher in the Snow”, a
movie about a boy named Cliff Evans who has an emotional impairment. In
this movie there is a young boy who doesn’t say much and isn’t well known in
his school. One day he suddenly dies and no one knows why. Because this
disruptive in school
nobody bothered to
pay him any attention.
movie got across the
point to me that not
all EI students are like
Chris. They won’t
always verbalize their
problems and that I
need to be on the look
out for students
Something that has
over and over this
semester is that
teachers need to get
students on a personal
level. This movie and Professor Wolthuis’s talk reinforced this idea again.
If you would like to read more about “Cipher in the Snow” click on the link
Assistive Technology
If someone had asked me before taking this class if their was any
technology available to promote the learning of students with an emotional
disorder I would have said no way. That changed when we had class
presentations. One of the groups talked about assistive technology and the
different groups it can
Christy, Jason,
Kristin, and Susana gave us
a handout with different
students. They were:
Personal computers
Motorized Legos
Woodshop or other hands
on classes
These things can help a
Kristi explaining different types of
Assistive Technology.
accomplish something and keeps
them involved. Keeping a student with an emotional impairment engaged and
interested like any other student is very important.
When I read that interactive media is useful that made something
about Chris make more sense. During a lesson Chris would hum the tune to
his video games. At the time I thought it was terrible that he was allowed
to play video games so much. Now I see that his being engaged kept his
attention. Perhaps educators can use learn something from video games.
Impact on Myself and Career
This semester I have come a long way in understanding emotional
impairments from where I was when I met Chris. But there is still so much I
have to learn. It is my hope that I will try to come up with better ways to
teach any students I have with emotional impairments and to understand
that they are not just a behavior problem I have to deal with. I also want to
know my students well enough that something like what happened in “Cipher
in the Snow” won’t be a problem. I don’t want to forget about a student
because they are too much of a bother or because they don’t speak up for
their needs.