Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Dissertation


Children with disabilities--Education--Middle West; Mentally ill children--Education--Middle West; Children with disabilities--Education; Mentally ill children--Education; Middle West; Academic theses;


Increasing student achievement is the purpose of all educational programs, including the programs for students with disabilities. The adequacy of the educational programing for students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBO) who also have mental health issues was the focus of this qualitative study. Specific attention was paid to the assessment and instructional practices used with students with EBO in order to answer the research question: Are the current assessment and instructional practices for students with EBD and mental health issues effective and sufficient? This study explored the potential benefits of using an ecological theoretical framework based on the bioecological model developed by Urie Bronfenbrenner.

The study took place at an educational program in a specialized day school for children and youth with mental health and behavioral challenges. The program is located in a large, urban school district in the Midwest. Data were gathered from interviews conducted with five education experts who work with this population. Additional data were gathered by conducting a document analysis of 12 individualized educational programs of students who were served at the research site.

The analysis of the data revealed five themes. First, the data revealed that the current assessment practices are insufficient. Second, in order for these students to access an appropriate education a greater understanding of mental health issues is needed. The third theme from the analysis was that effective practices for students with mental health issues needed to include a therapeutic component, positive relationships with adults, and an instructional focus on life skills. The fourth theme centered on the importance of professional collaboration in programs serving students with mental health needs. The final theme was the failure to replicate the mental health therapy and counseling services from the research site in local schools complicated a successful transition at the time of discharge.

The conclusions and recommendations from this study support the need for modifying the assessment and instructional practices for students with mental health issues. The findings also substantiate the need for therapeutic services for these students, positive relationships between teachers and students, and family involvement. A greater understanding of this population, including improved preservice and professional development for teachers, is also needed. Implementing these recommendations would significantly improve the educational programs and outcomes for students with mental health issues.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Department of Special Education

First Advisor

Susan Etscheidt


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Date Original


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