Award Date

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational & Clinical Studies

First Committee Member

Tracy G. Spies

Second Committee Member

Cori M. More

Third Committee Member

Joseph Morgan

Fourth Committee Member

Randall Boone

Number of Pages



While there is a longstanding call for all students to succeed, students receiving special education services under the label of emotional disturbance (ED) are at an increased risk for minimal school and life outcomes, ranging from poor classroom grades and increased expulsion to high rates of incarceration and drug use. Although there are extant interventions, these often rely on extrinsic motivation or are begun after research suggests behaviors have become habit. Because of this, there is a call for earlier intervention that teaches students requisite skills. One such developmentally appropriate practice that has yet to be explored with students receiving services for ED is emotional intelligence. Found to have positive effects with the general population, and correlated with the exact areas identified as common deficits for students with ED, the current study sought to examine the effects of an emotional intelligence intervention on the performance of the youngest students receiving special education services in a self-contained setting for students with emotional disturbance.

The current study employed a multiple probe across participants design to analyze whether there was a functional relationship between the emotional intelligence intervention and student time-on-task and individually operationalized challenging behaviors. Observations occurred during a ten-minute time period and included both a momentary time sample of time on-task and a frequency count of challenging behaviors. The study took place in a self-contained classroom for students receiving special education services under the ED label on a comprehensive school campus in the southwest United States. Thirty-five probes were completed across eight weeks of school with two maintenance sessions one week and one month after the original conclusion. Additional research questions analyzed the impact of the intervention on emotional intelligence measures, explored maintenance and generalization effects, and asked whether teachers and students approved of the intervention.

Visual analysis results reveal that the emotional intelligence intervention did not demonstrate a strong functional relationship with student demonstration of individually operationalized challenging behavior, but that these behaviors did decrease marginally across phases. The measure of time-on-task did reveal a positive functional relationship between the emotional intelligence intervention for two of the three participants. In addition, two of three students demonstrated improved scores on measures of emotional intelligence. All students maintained their intervention levels of improved time-on-task and challenging behavior during maintenance probes. Generalization was reported across settings with the special education teacher’s assistant and specialists noting a decrease in challenging behavior of some kind for all participants who completed the intervention. Social validity measures revealed that the teacher felt that all behaviors selected were of social import and that there had been at least temporary reductions in these behaviors. She also indicated that she would continue using the intervention for all students and would suggest it to colleagues. Conversely, students did not rate the intervention with high approval, with only one student fully engaged in the holistic intervention package.


challenging behaviors; emotional and behavioral disorders; intervention; single case research design; young children


Education | Pre-Elementary, Early Childhood, Kindergarten Teacher Education | Special Education and Teaching

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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