UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The recognition and treatment of emotionally disturbed children in grades one to four of a public school system ; a sample survey of the children from twelve Burnaby schools reported by their teachers as maladjusted... Bell, Kenneth Edward


The present study is an attempt, on a sample basis, to measure the ability of teachers to recognize and refer for help emotionally disturbed children in their classrooms; the incidence of children recognized as needing help; and the help at present being given children to overcome their maladjustment. The survey was limited to the first four grades because the sooner a child's disturbance is detected, the easier it is to help him overcome it. A basic questionnaire was used for securing information about emotionally disturbed children from teachers in the primary schools in the sample area (Burnaby). Forty-six teachers out of a possible eighty-four reported ninety out of approximately three-thousand children as emotionally disturbed—about three per cent of all the children in grades one to four. An average of two children per teacher were reported. There were seven boys for every two girls. The largest number of children were classified as withdrawn, with only half as many classified as aggressive. Less than one-fifth of the teachers made comments indicating that they were making special efforts to help the children overcome disturbance. As a follow-up, a more detailed study was made of the emotionally disturbed children reported from three schools. Additional information was secured from school progress and health records; from the school social worker, mental health counsellor, and school nurses; and from social agency records. Of the thirty-two children reported from three schools, seven children were in urgent need of casework help, nine of them needed more casework help than they were getting, and the needs for help of the remaining sixteen children were unknown, although they had definite emotional disturbance. Virtually the only casework help given was supplied, in other connections, by social workers from the Social Welfare Branch, the Children's Aid Society of Vancouver, and the Family Welfare Bureau. The teachers had secured special help for less than half of the children that they reported as emotionally disturbed. The school nurses had made some investigation into the problems of fourteen children, four of whom were also under the supervision of the mental health counsellor. None of the children had been called to the attention of the school social worker. Emotionally disturbed children in the three schools surveyed need much more help than they are presently getting. It is probable, that of the ninety children from twelve schools, more than half are in need of intensive casework help. A caseload of forty-five seriously disturbed children, plus forty-five children who need some help, would keep at least one trained caseworker busy all the time. When it is taken into consideration that only the first four grades were covered in the sample survey, and that of the eighty-four teachers in those grades, thirty-eight did not participate, the implication is that in the sample area, there are at least a hundred children needing intensive casework services, and an equal or greater number needing at least some investigation into their problems by the school social worker. Before help can be given disturbed children by the school social worker, the teachers must refer the children as needing help. And then, there must be active co-operation between social worker and teacher, the teacher giving help in the classroom, the social worker in the home. The mental health counsellor is not trained to do casework, but he performs a valuable function in helping teachers to recognize the gravity of various symptoms of emotional disturbance. Unfortunately, the school social worker and mental health counsellor work in different schools. If they were to work in the same schools they would complement one another's efforts and form a valuable team. School nurses are doing an effective job with physical health problems, but they do not appear to be giving emotionally disturbed children needed help, although in most instances they are the only ones asked to give such help. It seems likely that improved attention for children with serious emotional disturbance will come only if social workers are made available, and their services used by the school teachers for children needing help.

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