Faculty Publications

Supporting Young Exceptional Children’s Mental Health in the Early Childhood Classroom

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Journal/Book/Conference Title

Teaching Exceptional Children


The mental health of students with disabilities has received increasing attention, yet it is difficult for early childhood teachers to identify young children with mental health issues and access support. Research has shown the lack of timely intervention might cause more serious emotional issues later. The interplay of disability, young age, and mental health issues complicate the teaching of early childhood teachers. The purpose of this article is to highlight the difficulties early childhood teachers are experiencing when a child with special needs requires additional support services for social-emotional and behavioral concerns. Barriers or challenges that exist to accessing mental health services for young children and their families are discussed. Through the use of vignettes, we present six strategies to assist early childhood special education professionals in addressing the mental health needs of young children, including 1) recognizing the warning signs of mental health needs for early identification and intervention, 2) utilizing screening tools to detect a child’s mental health needs, 3) selecting and providing school-based supports, 4) monitoring the child’s response to school-based mental health supports, 5) collaborating with mental health professionals and partnering with families, and 6) securing additional networks and resources to support children with special needs.


Department of Special Education

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DOI of published version