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Masters of Special Education with Academic Instruction Certification

Systematic Screening for Behavioral Disorders (SSBD) - Topic 58

What is it?

Systematic Screening for Behavioral Disorders (SSBD) is a systematic and comprehensive approach to identifying students who may be at risk for internalizing and externalizing behavior disorders. It has been used across all grade levels, from Kindergarten to high school. More verification is needed to determine its effectiveness at the preschool level. It uses a three stage, or gate, model for screening and identifying students who may be in need of behavior supports. The first gate involves the ranking of all students by the classroom teacher. The teacher ranks each student in the classroom, taking into account both external and internal behaviors. In the second gate, the teacher completes a more detailed measure of the students who were most at risk for externalizing and internalizing behaviors. These results are compared to a normed sample of students. The third gate involves the observation the identified students by an outside professional. The outside professional rates the students according to their observations. Data from the teacher and the professional are compared and eligibility for special education services may be considered.

A kit entitled Systematic Screening for Behavior Disorders by Hill M. Walker, Ph.D. and Herbert H Severson, Ph.D. is available through Sopris Learning at the Cambium Learning Store. This kit is geared towards students in Kindergarten to grade 6. The kit includes three manuals, a training video, a CD used to help prompt observations, and reproducible forms.

Why is it important?

There is a discrepancy between the number of students who have or are at risk for developing behavior disorders. According to Weist, Rubin, Moore, Adelsheim, and Gordon, (2007), between 12% and 27% of students might demonstrate external behavior concerns or internal behavior concerns (e.g. depression or anxiety), but only one in six to one in three students receive any type of treatment. The earlier students who are at risk are identified the more likely it is that timely treatments and services will be provided to the student. Early intervention is important because problem behaviors may become difficult or impossible to manage (Davis, Young, Hardman, & Winters; 2011).


Davis, S.D., Young, E.L., Hardman, S., & Winters, R. (2011). Screening for emotional and behavioral

disorders. Principal Leadership. Retrieved from  

Walker, H.M. & Severson, H.H., Systematic Screening for Behavior Disorders.

Weist, M.D., Rubin, M., Moore, E., Adelsheim, S., & Gordon, W. (2007). Mental health screening in

schools. Journal of School Health. 77(2).

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