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Office of Mental Health

Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED) Criteria

Serious emotional disturbance (SED) means a child or adolescent has a designated mental illness diagnosis according to the most current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) AND has experienced functional limitations due to emotional disturbance over the past 12 months on a continuous or intermittent basis.

The functional limitations must be moderate in at least two of the following areas or severe in at least one of the following areas:

  1. ability to care for self (e.g. personal hygiene; obtaining and eating food; dressing; avoiding injuries); or

  2. family life (e.g., capacity to live in a family or family like environment; relationships with parents or substitute parents, siblings and other relatives; behavior in family setting); or

  3. social relationships (e.g. establishing and maintaining friendships; interpersonal interactions with peers, neighbors and other adults; social skills; compliance with social norms; play and appropriate use of leisure time); or

  4. self-direction/self-control (e.g. ability to sustain focused attention for a long enough period of time to permit completion of age-appropriate tasks; behavioral self-control; appropriate judgment and value systems; decision-making ability); or

  5. ability to learn (e.g. school achievement and attendance; receptive and expressive language; relationships with teachers; behavior in school).