They need some attention...

Last Updated 20 March 2019, 19:30 IST

Emotional and Behavioural disorder (EBD) is a broad term, which includes anxiety disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disorders, bipolar affective disorder, oppositional defiance disorder, depression, etc. Students with such a disorder commonly lack the ability to control their impulses and emotional balance that is necessary to handle social interactions with other students. This can be challenging for teachers, especially in an inclusive classroom that comprises students with EBD.

But there are ways for teachers to help all the students in the classroom to feel welcomed and ready to learn. The behaviour of EBD students can be moderated by implementing a classroom management plan. Here are some proven strategies to help students struggling with EBD:

Set clear expectations

When children know what is expected of them, they feel in control. Therefore, the teacher should begin by clearly expressing her expectations of appropriate behaviour. For instance, you can set rules for interaction, like — ‘Raise your hand before you speak’ or ‘Don’t interrupt when someone is talking.’

You can also design an easy-to-follow daily schedule with fun and vibrant pictures. In such a schedule, a book would symbolise reading time, and a basketball may represent outdoor playtime. As the day progresses, the teacher can check off entries from the schedule to help students learn time management and feel comfortable with the transitions.

Along with simple and clear rules, there should be simple and clear teaching activities. The activities that do not have complicated directions allow students with EBD to follow along and interact with the rest of the class.


At times, children with behavioural disorders may refuse to comply with the teacher. They refuse to follow directions. But that is not necessarily an act of defiance. Rather, it could be because they failed to understand the instruction in the first place. The most common reason behind this could be their short attention span. To avoid this, the teacher can establish an audio-visual reminder (like clapping hands or blowing a whistle) that alerts the whole class that the teacher is going to give some instructions. Once the class becomes habituated to your cue, you will be surprised to see how well-tuned they get!

Motivational strategies

Unfortunately, EBD students tend to have had a lot of negative experiences in school. Therefore, they often lack the desire or motivation to try and succeed. At times, you have to discipline children for improper behaviour, but remember that rewarding positive behaviour is ultimately far more effective in the long run. Many students with EBD tend to take any discipline as a personal attack, and because of this, they often learn very little from it.

Try to celebrate the successes of these students more than you reprimand or punish their mistakes.

Mini breaks

Most EBD children lack emotional balance and maturity needed to remain focused and on-task for long periods. Instead of reprimanding these students for their lapses, incorporate short rest periods or mini-breaks during school hours.

Take time to periodically stop teaching and allow students to catch up if need be. Give them time to finish their assignment, and allow those who have finished relaxing.

Fair treatment

Students with EBD do not respond very well to situations that appear unfair to them. This can trigger a cascade of negative emotions and acting-out behaviour. To ensure that you are treating all of your students in a consistently fair manner, don’t bend your established rules for any student. Allowing exceptions opens you up to accusations of being unfair.

Clear directions

When interacting with students with EBD, a teacher must have good eye contact. In fact, a teacher certainly cannot make eye contact with all students simultaneously; however, before addressing the class, a teacher can quickly
examine the classroom to ensure that all students are attentive and focussed. Identify students who struggle to focus, and hold eye contact with them to help them focus.

Teachers should ask their behaviourally challenged students to paraphrase or rephrase your instructions in their own words. This exercise ensures that the students have understood your instructions and there is a high likelihood that they will follow them.

Good behaviour game

Monotony and tedium can prove to be a trigger for children with EBD. When bored, their mind seeks stimulation, which in turn may result in disruptive behaviour. The teacher can come up with some engaging games to offer novelty to the class.

The classroom can be split into groups, and they can
compete to win points or badges or gifts for displaying good behaviour.

Furthermore, a behaviour game can also add fun to a long and tedious school day, while instilling qualities like team spirit and healthy competition in young learners.

These strategies are not exhaustive, there is so much more than a teacher can do to engage her emotionally and behaviourally challenged pupils.

Patience, communication, empathy and feedback can all add to a harmonious classroom setting. The goal is to inspire better behaviour and emotional restraint over time and design a classroom
setting that encourages students to comply, enjoy and reap the fruits of happy learning.

(Published 20 March 2019, 19:15 IST)

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