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NASP Home NASP Publications School Psychology Review (SPR) Volume 20 Issue 4 (1991) The Social Maladjustment Exclusion: i...
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Volume 20, Issue 4 (1991)

The Social Maladjustment Exclusion: issues of Definition and Assessment

pp. 580—598

Abstract: The social maladjustment exclusionary clause in the federal definition of serious emotional disturbance has been, and continues to be, a source of confusion and controversy. This review seeks to clarify issues of definition and assessment for school psychologists facing the task of operationalizing and measuring the exclusion. Historical and legal analyses suggest that, far from representing a congressional intent to exclude children with conduct disorders,the social maladjustment exclusion may be little more than an historical anomaly.A review of existing approaches to distinguishing between serious emotional disturbance and social maladjustment failed to disclose any measures that were technically adequate and specifically validated for that purpose. Further, various sources of information suggest that conduct or behavior problems, represent the most prevalent condition among children declared eligible for service as seriously emotionally disturbed. For school psychologists in states with an exclusion for social maladjustment, proactive recommendations are offered, emphasizing opportunities for education and focusing on issues of least restrictive environment rather than differential diagnosis.

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