Labeling and Categorizing Children and Youth with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders in the USA

Current practices and conceptual problems

Authored by: James M. Kauffman

The Routledge International Companion to Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties

Print publication date:  August  2012
Online publication date:  October  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415584630
eBook ISBN: 9780203117378
Adobe ISBN: 9781136303111

10.4324/9780203117378.ch2

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Abstract

Several issues regarding children and youth with emotional or behavioral disorders (EBD) remain controversial in the USA in the early twenty-first century. Among them are prevalence, prevention, and labeling. The data suggest that children and youth with EBD remain mostly unlabeled and grossly underserved, and that fear of false identification and labeling precludes the early identification that prevention requires (Forness et al. 2012; Kauffman 1999, 2010; Kauffman and Brigham 2009; Kauffman and Landrum 2009; Kauffman et al. 2007; Kauffman et al. 2009). However, the labeling problem must be seen in the broader context of special education’s difficulties in the USA. Special education is now often denigrated by both the political far left and the far right. Some on the far left see disproportionate representation as prima facie evidence that special education is racist, sexist, classist, or otherwise discriminatory, or that special education denies human rights to those with disabilities. Some on the far right view special education as another example of creeping socialism, unwarranted government control, entitlement that destroys initiative and independence, and wasteful expenditure of public funds. Special education is under attack for a variety of reasons, and opposition to labeling is a convenient pretext of both far left and far right for encouraging the belief that special education is a malicious and wasteful enterprise that should be eliminated because it has no place in an equitable and free society (see Anastasiou and Kauffman 2011; Kauffman 2009; Kauffman and Hallahan 2005).

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