Emotional Impairment Assessment and Evaluation

When a DPSCD School Social Worker evaluates a student to determine eligibility for special education services as a student with an emotional impairment, the student must have behavioral problems primarily in the affective domain, an inability to learn which cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory or health factors, e.g.:

  • Failure on classroom tests or quizzes
  • May have superior skills in some areas but no apparent application
  • Reduced productivity across all academic tasks

The Social Worker then assesses whether the student meets at least one of the following specific criteria:

  1. An inability to build or maintain interpersonal relationships within the school environment, e.g.:
    • Has no friends in home, school or community settings
    • Is extremely fearful of teachers and peers
    • Conflict and tension in almost all social relationships
  2. Inappropriate behaviors or feelings under normal circumstances, e.g.:
    • Catastrophic reactions to everyday occurrences
    • Extreme mood lability
    • Flat, blunted, distorted or excessive affect
  3. General Pervasive Mood of Unhappiness or Depression, e.g.:
    • Loss of interest in usual activities
    • Prominent and persistent feelings of depression, hopelessness, sadness or irritability
    • Feelings of poor self-worth
  4. Tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems, e.g.:
    • Intense, disabling anxiety
    • Psychosomatic symptoms
    • School phobia

In the evaluation process School Social Workers must make differential diagnosis to rule out other disorders that may manifest as emotional impairment. Examples of these are: Social Maladjustment, Conduct Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder to name a few.

By using the Achenbach and other assessment tools, School Social Workers can determine if an emotional impairment is the primary disability or if the behaviors are secondary to another disorder.