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BESD: What You Need To Know

BESD stands for behavioural, emotional and social difficulties (sometimes referred to as "emotional behavioural difficulties” or EBD). It refers to a wide range of complex difficulties which can interfere with a child’s learning or the learning of their peers. 

What Are The Characteristics Of BESD?

There are many characteristics of BESD, and not all children with this diagnosis will exhibit all of them. Characteristics/symptoms of BESD include:

  • Disruptive, anti-social or aggressive behaviour
  • Temper tantrums
  • Stealing or vandalism
  • Hyperactivity, attention and concentration problems
  • Withdrawal from socialising or group settings
  • Immature social skills
  • Poor relationships with peers and/or family

Different Categories Of BESD

The behaviour of a child with BESD will usually be categorised into one or more of the following disorders:

Adjustment disorders: they may have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, or had some sort of major change in their life to which they have not been able to adjust well. This may then have affected their behaviour; they may have become more violent or prone to truanting.

Anxiety disorders: A child with an anxiety disorder may suffer panic attacks or complain of physical symptoms such as a headache or upset stomach. They may also experience inappropriate emotional responses, for example crying without obvious reason or laughing inappropriately.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): A child with BESD may also have OCD, where they have persistent obsessions or compulsions. This could include counting, repeating words, washing hands or other behaviour.

BESD And Education

Many children with BESD can develop learning difficulties because they struggle with school relationships and routines. That said, BESD can affect children of all abilities and intelligence levels; BESD is not in itself a learning difficulty. It is also sometimes the case that a child will develop BESD characteristics in order to draw attention away from a learning difficulty, where they feel unable to follow what is happening in lessons and so act out to avoid people finding out.

What Causes BESD?

There are many causes of BESD, and early childhood experience is a major factor. There is a strong correlation between other SEN and BESD, possibly for the reasons mentioned above. Mental health problems can also contribute to BESD. There may also be social, emotional, physical and cognitive causes. There is no automatic link between any one thing and BESD, and prevalence varies between ages, genders and social background/family income level.

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