Emotional/Behavioural Difficulties

‘EBD’ stands for Emotional Behavioural Disorder (often referred to as 'Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties) and refers to a condition in which behaviour or emotional responses of an individual are so different from generally accepted norms, that they adversely affect that child's performance. The term EBD is a broad term often used to group a range of more specific difficulties such as behaviour which interferes with a child's own learning or the learning of their peers.

EBD is generally a specific diagnosis where the child displays persistent and severe behaviours. It can also be referred to as 'Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties' (SEBD).

Due to the potential emotional difficulties or disturbance, children with EBD may refuse or unsuccessfully be able to utilise educational opportunities offered to them and are therefore potentially difficult or challenging to manage. Often due to the fact that the child’s brain receives and processes information differently than a child who does not suffer from EBD.


Characteristics of EBD

  • Disruptive, anti-social and aggressive behaviour;
  • Poor peer and family relationships;
  • Hyperactivity, attention and concentration problems.


Types of EBD
A child with EBD will usually have their behaviour categorised into recognisable disorders, such as one of the following:-


  • Adjustment Disorders. A child suffering from an Adjustment Disorder may have witnessed a stressful event or had a big change in their normal lifestyle. This could then have an adverse reaction on their behaviour and the child may become prone to truancy, vandalism, or fighting.
  • Anxiety Disorders. A child suffering from an anxiety disorder may be prone to frequent panic attacks. Here the child may complain of physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches. The child may also display inappropriate emotional responses, such as outbursts of laughter or crying out of context
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder ('OCD'). A child suffering from EBD may also have an obsessive compulsive disorder. Here the child can display recurrent and persistent obsessions or compulsions. Behaviours may include repetitive hand washing, praying, counting, and repeating words silently.

Children with EBD need to be in environments which allow them to interact comfortably. They will often feel more comfortable in smaller groups with familiar peers, where extra support can be offered. Children will benefit from having structured and routine educational instructions. This can assist them in reaching their full academic potential.


Developmental Impact

When you see behavioural difficulties, you might also see difficulties with:

  • Self Regulation of physical activity, thoughts or emotions.
  • Receptive language: Understanding of language.
  • Expressive language: The ability to use language and communicate needs and wants to others.
  • Executive Functioning: Higher order reasoning and thinking skills.
  • Emotional Control: involves the ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions and to regulate emotions.
  • Social interaction: that is appropriate and reciprocal in nature with both same aged peers and adults.
  • Planning and sequencing tasks or activities (e.g. copying duplo models, drawing pictures).


Supporting Assessment

  • Social skills: Teaching social skills with an emphasis on recognition of feelings, play skills, problem solving and self-regulation.
  • Functional equivalents: Teaching children functionally equivalent skills (e.g. if physical aggression means leave me alone, teach the child the equivalent skill, i.e. ‘go away’ sign).
  • Early identification of emerging challenging behaviours.
  • Preschool or School environment: Have a positive and supportive relationship with staff and carers involved.
  • Consistent and realistic expectations: Ensure that all people involved have the same expectations of the child.
  • Success: Ensuring that all children encounter (or are actively scheduled) the opportunities necessary for their success.
  • Eye contact: Get close to the child to ensure they are able to hear you and see your face; get down to their level.
  • Know the motivators: Behaviour management starts with knowing your child’s “currency” or motivators – the “what’s in it for me?”.  These motivators might be: praise, time with parents, IT/screen time, access to special games or toys to name a few. These rewards need to be immediate (when you choose) or at least quantifiable so that child knows when they have earn it. You can either take these rewards away in the event of misbehaviour or take them away ahead of time so that kids need to ‘earn’ them through good behaviour. Where possible, use visuals to support this by adding a counter of some form (e.g. a pom pom) to a jar.
  • Simple language: Use clear, specific language when making requests and, if necessary, show them what you want them to do.
  • Tone of voice: Tone and volume of voice when making requests is important (e.g. firm but friendly tone if the request is non-negotiable). Even when a child may not understand the instructions, they often understand the tone of voice.
  • Boundaries: Both children and parents need to understand the boundaries for what is unacceptable behaviour to ensure the agreed upon strategies are implemented consistently.


How Can We Help?

  • Time out: The purpose is to interrupt a non-desirable behaviour and at the same time provide an opportunity for the child to settle themselves before continuing to act. Time out works best in sight of the parent and should be relatively short.
  • Choices: If the child is asking for something that is not on offer, it is important that parents put boundaries in place for them. Sometimes this means saying ”NO” and sticking to that. It is ok to say: “That is not a choice. The choice is …….. Or ……….  What is the choice your are making?”
  • Reduce incessant talking: Use talking counters. During a brief period when the child is engaged in a specific activity  provide a small number of counters visually (e.g 5 blocks). Each time the child wants to talk with the parent, the child must hand a counter to the parent but parent asks ‘Are you sure you want to use a counter?’. The adult does not respond unless a question is asked and a counter is removed. The adult does not respond to statements. Instead they ignore statements or say “Thank you for telling me. (pause)……….”Oh! Are you asking me a question? What question are you asking me?”. Over time, this can help redirect statements (e.g. “I want food”) to question (e.g “Can I please have a sandwich”), as well as limit excessive talking.
  • Role Playing: Explicit teaching in structured social situations through modelling and role-plays.
  • Use role models: Small group cooperative games with good role models to provide opportunities to practice social skills.

Further Information and Support 

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Learning Land Nursery will be closed for the following bank Holidays Friday 19th April 2019 and Monday 22nd April 2019 sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.

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