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Book: Social-Emotional Exceptionalities
Social-Emotional Exceptionalities
A roadmap for what follows:
The following outline presents major domains of functioning, and the variables within each domain that contribute to successful adaptation. Major domains and the variables within them are research-based, that is, there are articles, and often entire reviews or even books, which provide evidence as to the impact of that variable upon an individual’s functioning. While it is important to recognize the interactive nature of these domains, and their mutual interaction with each other, I will also encourage you to consider each separately.
Vitruvian Man
The Vitruvian Man
Behavioral Development
Adaptive behavior (independent functioning)
Social Development
Social competence
Peer relationships
Family functioning
Adult adjustment
Emotional development
Cognitive/Academic Development
Academic competence
Cognitive skills
Language usage
Any of the variables (e.g. impulsivity) can affect any of the domains. For example, impulsivity tends to affect successful outcomes in the behavioral, social and academic domains. While we will not explicitly discuss each and every one of these variables as we learn about people with exceptionalities, you should be aware that an exceptionality, whether it is a disability or a talent, can have significant effects on each of the above variables. I would like you to use this framework as you learn about each exceptionality—ask yourselves, for example: How might being visually impaired affect a child’s self-concept? How might being visually impaired affect the transition from adolescence to independent living? Having a visually impairment may have a significant impact on the development of anxiety or depression, but not on cognitive skills. It’s effect on academic competence may be mediated (or effected) by the type of school and schooling resources available to the family.
The first “class” of exceptionalities we will learn more about are social-emotional disorders, also referred to as mental disorders. The social-emotional disorders that children can develop are commonly divided into two groups: disruptive or externalizing behavior disorders (e.g., attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct problems) and emotional or internalizing behavior disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression). In addition, children also can develop other disorders that do not fit into this classification system, such as autism, schizophrenia, and eating disorders.
An important perspective within which to understand children’s mental disorders is development. By its nature, children’s behavior fluctuates over time. One of the biggest challenges for parents, educators and practitioners is to distinguish between normal developmental changes and the emergence of a disorder (atypical changes). Development is also an important consideration in determining whether early signs of a disorder will emerge as a full-blown disorder, develop into a different disorder, or resolve into healthy functioning.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Ricky Stone using a
Ricky Stone, 8, left, concentrates on the computer screen as he uses a “Play Attention” helmet with the help of Linda Creamer at a learning center. An Asheville-based company offers “Play Attention” as an alternative to traditional attention deficit disorder treatments, by asking users to move images on a computer screen using only their minds. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
ADHD has as its primary symptoms inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Research has shown that inattention symptoms tend to cluster apart from symptoms of impulsivity and hyperactivity, while the latter two tend to cluster together. The DSM-IV (the set of diagnostic definitions used by psychologists and psychiatrists) maintains this distinction by including two sets of symptoms. In order to meet diagnostic criteria for ADHD, the child’s parents or teachers must report the presence of at least six symptoms of inattention (e.g., is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli) or six symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity (e.g., often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat). In both cases, the symptoms must:
have been present and been causing impairment before age seven years
have been present for six months or more
cause clinically significant impairment in terms of interpersonal or academic functioning in two or more settings and must differ from normal developmental expectations.
Alternatively, behavior rating scales, on which respondents rate individual symptoms of ADHD, provide a dimensional, age-sensitive, quantitative assessment of ADHD-related problems, along with an indication of the level at which the scores are considered to be indicative of clinically significant problems.
Although reports vary depending on the criteria used, with DSM-IV based criteria the estimates of the incidence of ADHD are about 3 percent to 5 percent of the general population of children. As with the other externalizing disorders, it occurs much more frequently in boys than in girls, with a typical ratio of six to one in samples attained from treatment settings and three to one in community samples.
Although some children show signs of ADHD as early as infancy, for most children the first signs of behavior that differs from developmental expectations emerge between the ages of three and four years. Another common time for children to be first identified is at school entry.
No one knows exactly what causes ADHD. Biological factors are likely to include genetic transmission and pregnancy and birth complications, and may also include brain injury or lead exposure. Researchers have found strong evidence for the influence of genetics (although accounting for only 10 percent to 15 percent of the variance in ADHD symptoms) and neurobiological factors (with more support found for irregularities in brain structures than for neuro-chemical imbalances). The notion that sugar and other dietary factors cause ADHD has received little support. Family factors have not been found to play a clear role in causing ADHD, although family influences are known to be important in the developmental course and emergence of associated symptoms.
As you might imagine, children with ADHD experience difficulty across a range of domains. They have difficulty focusing on academic work, so may fall behind in learning. They are impulsive in peer relationships and often do not have the highly developed social skills needed to handle the sticky situations they may find themselves in as a result of their impulsivity. As a result of their impulsive interactions with peers, they are often rejected by classmates. The rejection and poor school performance both contribute to a poor self-concept. The family relationships of children with ADHD are often strained at times. Parents report that children with ADHD are hard to discipline, and often defiant and disruptive as well. Co-morbid (occurring together) conditions in people with ADHD are not uncommon.
Conduct Problems (Disruptive Behavior)
Inmates at the O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility.
Wards from the sex offender treatment program line up in their dormitory before going outside for exercise at the O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton, Calif. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)
The primary behaviors that fall into this category are aggression, noncompliance, defiance, and aversive interpersonal behavior. The DSM-IV categorizes children with the less severe form of disruptive behavior disorders as having oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Symptoms of ODD include a pattern of negativistic, defiant, noncompliant, and argumentative behavior, lasting for at least six months and causing significant impairment in social or academic functioning. In contrast, aggression and violation of rules characterize conduct disorder (CD). The fifteen symptom-based criteria are clustered into four groups: (1) aggression to people and animals, (2) destruction of property, (3) deceitfulness or theft, and (4) serious violation of rules. From the dimensional perspective, ODD and CD are considered externalizing behavior problems, further distinguished as two subtypes: delinquent and aggressive.
Estimates of the frequency of occurrence among school-age children of ODD range from 5 percent to 25 percent and of CD from 5 percent to 20 percent.
As with ADHD, both ODD and CD are more frequently diagnosed in boys than in girls. ODD is twice as common in males than females, although only before puberty; rates are about even in postpubertal males and females. The male to female ratio for CD is between two to one and three to one.
Children may be first diagnosed with ODD or CD at any point in childhood. ODD may be present as early as three years of age and is usually diagnosed by the early school years. Some researchers consider ODD to be a milder, earlier version of CD, although the matter is controversial. Only about 25 percent of children with ODD progress to the more severe CD. On the other hand, most children who meet the criteria for CD were previously diagnosed with ODD and had persisting ODD symptoms. Children with childhood-onset (i.e., before age ten years) of CD, who are more likely to be boys, have been found to be more likely to persist in antisocial behaviors over time. In a 1996 research report, Terri Moffitt and her colleagues delineated two alternative developmental pathways for children with conduct problems. The researchers described one group of these children, those with early onset and problems that persist, as following the life-course-persistent path, whereas those whose conduct problems first emerged later in adolescence and were typically limited to the teen years were described as following the adolescent-limited path.
The development of ODD or CD is likely to have origins in multiple factors associated with diverse pathways. Researchers have found evidence that several factors are related to the development of ODD, CD, or both: genetically based, early temperament difficulties (e.g., having lower frustration tolerance), neurobiological factors (e.g., low psychophysiological arousal), social-cognitive factors (e.g., cognitive distortions), family patterns of interaction (e.g., inadequate monitoring of the child’s behavior), and family environmental stress and adversity (e.g., marital discord).
Some children develop depression and anxiety, disorders that involve not only maladaptive thoughts and emotions but also maladaptive behaviors. It is important to distinguish these disorders from common depressed mood or childhood worries and fears. Knowledge of normal development of emotions and cognitions is helpful in making these distinctions.

Internalizing disorders include depression and anxiety. Unlike externalizing disorders, which include behaviors that are often very clearly seen by others, the internalizing disorders include symptoms which are not always visible to those around the individual. A recent paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) indicates that more work days are lost due to mental disorders, including depression, then to physical disorders. The cost to employers and the systems that pay disability is astonishing.
Depression (Mood Disorders)
Rocio Belmontes sits through a counseling session after losing her home
Fourth-grader Rocio Belmontes, 10, left, and Juan Patino, 10, attend an in-class counseling session at Naranja Elementary School. Counselors help students to deal stress caused by the destruction of their homes by Hurricane Andrew. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Depression is another relatively common disorder that often first appears in childhood or adolescence. The DSM-IV includes the depression diagnoses of major depression and dysthymia. To be diagnosed with major depression, someone must experience either depressed mood (or irritability) or loss of interest in their usual activities plus other symptoms such as sleep or appetite disturbance, loss of energy, or trouble concentrating. These symptoms must be present nearly every day for two weeks or more. For dysthymia, the symptoms are typically of a lower level of severity but persist for one year or more. For both disorders, the symptoms must cause impairment and must reflect a change from the child’s usual level of functioning. Standardized questionnaires are also used to measure depression and determine whether a child’s level of symptoms are in the non-depressed range or indicate mild, moderate, or severe levels of depression.
Mood Disorders Increase with Age
Studies of community samples have found that from 2 percent to 5 percent of children have mood disorders. Rates increase with age. Although rates are about equal for boys and girls in childhood, beginning at puberty girls are twice as likely as boys to receive a depression diagnosis. Depression is a recurrent disorder, with each additional episode increasing the likelihood of a recurrence.
Internalizing disorders can have a significant impact on multiple domains, including the development of peer relationships, social competence, self-concept and academic functioning. A hallmark of depression is often hypersomnia, or the tendency to sleep a lot. People with depression who also have hypersomnia are isolated from family and friends. They are unable to do their schoolwork or to go to work. Some may fail classes or lose their job, which lead to greater stressors and often further depression.
Anxiety disorders in children are most likely to fall into the DSM-IV diagnostic categories of
generalized anxiety disorder,
simple phobia,
separation anxiety disorder,
obsessive-compulsive disorder,
post-traumatic stress disorder.
People diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) have a consistent pattern, lasting six months or more, of uncontrollable and excessive anxiety or worry, with the concerns covering a broad range of events or activities. In addition to worry, symptoms include irritability, restlessness, fatigue, difficulty in concentrating, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances. Symptoms of GAD commonly begin at around age ten, are persistent, frequently co-occur with depression, and are often accompanied by a number of physical symptoms such as sweating, suffering from chills, feeling faint, and having a racing pulse.
In contrast to generalized anxiety disorder, people with the other anxiety disorders have a much more narrow focus of their concerns. Simple phobia is typically focused on a specific situation or object. With separation anxiety, children display excessive fear and worry about becoming separated from their primary attachment figures. This disorder is often expressed as school refusal or school phobia. Obsessive-compulsive disorder consists of specific obsessions (abnormal thoughts, images, or impulses) or compulsions (repetitive acts). Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms develop in reaction to having experienced or witnessed a particularly harrowing event. Symptoms include sleep disturbances, irritability, attention problems, exaggerated startle responses, and hypervigilance.
During this module, you will view the PBS documentary, Refrigerator Mothers. You will meet Maria Mombille, whose story, in her words, is reprinted below. Though the film focuses on American experiences in the 1950’s, many parallels can be drawn to modern day struggles with having a child with a mental disorder. The stigma around many chronic physical illnesses is abating – yet the stigma of having a mental disorder remains. Additionally, families still report feeling blamed or feeling responsible for the mental disorder of their loved ones. Remember what we discussed in module 2: the individual is nested within a family – and the family is nested within a larger community context. It is often those family members who are “stuck” in the middle – who want to meet the needs of their exceptional children, but find little or no help from the community around them.
Jason McElwain cheers on the Florida Gators, 2006.
Seventeen-year-old high school senior Jason McElwain, from Greece, N.Y., applauds the Florida Gators following their 73-57 victory over UCLA in the Final Four national championship basketball game in Indianapolis. McElwain, a 5-foot-6 manager with autism, became famous almost instantly when he connected on six 3-pointers in the last four minutes of a February game. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Maria Mombille: The existence of Shem in my life is viewed by me as the single most, biggest experience and journey of my life. Several times during my life, people have expressed what almost amounts to a statement of sympathy or condolence, along with expressions of how they could never deal with having a child like my autistic son. Then almost invariably they comment on how “strong” I am, and that I can handle Shem because I am “strong.” First of all, if I am strong it is not because I was born strong. I am strong because Shem has taught me to be strong, to be courageous, and to have faith. If I am strong at all, it is because Shem has taken me by the hand in a long human journey of pain and wonder, tears and joy, fear and courage, struggle and beauty, anguish and faith. Shem has been my most powerful teacher. What I have learned in this wondrous journey I could have never learned any other way. What I have learned in this journey is carved in my soul.
For living with Shem can promote the human development and growth in parts of me not easily accessed by any other teachers or experiences. Second, I don’t view the existence of Shem in my life as a reason to mourn or to receive the expressions of condolences I mentioned earlier. There is always in your life a period when you mourn and grieve what you think your son or daughter with this disability could have been. That is always the gate of departure where you say your goodbyes to your past expectations as you would to dear beings you leave behind before you go on a voyage. It was a rite of passage, a bridge, a gate of departure into the unfolding of an unbelievable journey. Since then, and for many years now, there is not a single day that goes by in which the thought of Shem doesn’t make me smile. The perspective and insight into life that he has taught me are powerful anchors. Within this frame, then, we celebrate Shem the way he is. We value and protect his dignity, and we are most grateful for who he is.
Having been able to emotionally access some parts of Shem’s soul is considered by all of us in our family a true achievement. You get your barriers and walls down, and you observe and get to know him, and then, when the right “window” comes, you get to access him on his terms, in his wondrous culture, in his fascinating way of communication… AND HE RECEIVES YOU!!
Amazingly, he also comes to trust you. You have made contact with a human being who happens to be trapped behind the insulating walls of a most isolating condition. And isn’t this the way in which we truly access other human beings? Oh most blessed moment, when you take that first peek into that other human being you just discovered! It is a miracle that happens not one minute before our own walls come down; not one minute before our own expectations of the other person dissolve; not one minute before you are ready to open your arms and your heart to that other human being just the way they are — in their own culture, with their own way of communication, without pre-fabricated conditions and clauses. Only then you both cease to be strangers to each other. Only then you realize your common humanity and destiny. Only then the true journey begins…
These realizations have been the most valuable lessons that apply in anything I do in life, and with everybody I deal with. I find that they are universal. I apply them in my line of work. Over the years, I have worked as an educator and linguist, with students that have come into my life from over twenty different cultures and languages. The lessons learned from Shem, those universal lessons that I treasure, get validated over and over again in my contact with these wonderful human beings who don’t speak my language, don’t fully understand my culture.
Walls down, barriers down: That’s the lesson taught to me by Shem, and I strive to make it my motto. If one approach doesn’t work to access my students, then another one eventually will. Observing non-judgmentally, and learning to understand that other culture which seems as foreign and strange as Shem’s once seemed to me, one day the student’s walls come down, and alas!, another journey begins. And it is yet one more journey where the ages-old humanity, commonality and destiny that we share with each other is discovered, and when what once seemed “foreign” no longer does. It is at this moment that yet another wondrous journey entailing fellow humans begins, one in which we are “no more strangers”… Oh, that we could spread that wisdom throughout our ailing world! That the world could have more teachers like Shem!
Share Your Topic and Source

Research Topic
Newspaper carriers
It is time to think about the research topic for your final paper. In this forum, please share your paper focus (just the ‘focus’ of the paper, not the whole paper, don’t panic!), and one source from your annotated bibliography. Do not submit the whole paper; in this forum we are only interested to see what you plan to do, and offer some guidance.
Write about why you have chosen your topic, and what you hope to learn through doing the research paper. Please be more specific and narrow. For example, don’t just say you want to find out about Autism – that is a BIG topic. Think of exactly what you want to find out with regards to Autism – perhaps resources for families, and how families cope?
Please share one source from your annotated bibliography here. While you will be providing a list of annotated bibliographies for this Module’s assignment, in this forum we just need to know about one of the sources, briefly what it is about and how that source will be helpful for your final paper. Learn more about what an annotated bibliography at the college library’s Annotated Bibliographies: Home.
Please include the full reference of your source, using the APA format.
Include one open-ended (not a “yes” or “no question) question for your classmates to discuss with you in regard to this topic.
Please post your main response first (check due date on Course Schedule!), and remember to respond to at least two other people’s postings. Check back here frequently and respond to any questions that your professor or your classmates might have for you.
Refrigerator Mothers

Refrigerator Mothers
Aiva Lee and Kaire BelliniPlease watch the movie (link provided in the module) and read the Module’s “Book” (Social-Emotional Exceptionalities, 4 chapters) before participating in this discussion.
The film “Refrigerator Mothers” explores the traumatic legacy of blame, guilt and self-doubt suffered by a generation of women with autistic children, who were branded “refrigerator mothers.”
Autism is one of today’s fastest growing disorders, affecting one in 500 people. It is now known to be a neurological condition, but from the 1950’s through the 1970’s, the medical establishment mistakenly believed it had found the root cause of autism. They attributed the cause to emotionally cold mothers with poor parenting skills. Despite the difficulties faced by the mothers in the film, they show remarkable coping skills.
For this discussion, please respond to these questions:
Please share some of the coping skills and strategies that you saw in the families described in the film.
What might be one difference you see today? Please provide an example. (e.g. Difference in the law, ethics, medical opinions, type of support available, coping skills of parents, etc.)
As you watch the movie, and read this week’s content guide in Moodle (“Book”), what 1 question do you have for your classmates for this discussion?
Please cite all resources, and use APA style format to cite.
Please post a comprehensive explanation to the two questions above, and remember to respond to at least two other people’s postings.
Please note:
The discussion posts here cannot be used in your Learning Activity Review assignment (no cut and paste) because I cannot grade the same or similar work twice. You could cite this post in your LAR, but that (in assignment) must be expanded to include critical analysis of what it means.
Your main post should be substantive – at least 200 words, not including the Discussion questions or references. Each discussion response/reply to me or others must have a minimum of 125 words, spell checked, well written and citing references in support of arguments. Active participation is required.
In your reply to others: You could include additional research info (don’t just share a website link, explain what you found, summarize the info, and then share the website link), or, provide a few suggestions based on the class reading/additional reading, or explain why you agree or disagree with your classmate. Always provide at least ONE citation from the reading to ‘support’ your discussion.
NOTE FROM THE CUSTOMER.- For Discussion 1 you can choose depression 0r Anxiety
Thank you!

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