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Obtaining Your Child’s Mental Health Support And Accommodations In The School

Parents and caregivers can find it upsetting when they see their child having problems with behavior, emotions, learning, or attention in school. They might not know how to help. These issues can affect a child’s school performance and overall well-being. It’s important to make sure your child gets the right support in school because struggling in school and dropping out can have long-lasting effects on their life.

Getting help for your child in the school system can be tricky because schools can be complex. But remember, as a parent or caregiver, you know your child best. You can use your knowledge of your child’s strengths, interests, and needs to help the school provide the right support.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the school system:

Talk to the Teacher:
Start by talking to your child’s teacher. They can tell you how your child is doing in school and point out areas where they’re doing well and areas where they’re struggling. They can also suggest ways to improve. Keep in mind that diagnosing the exact reasons for your child’s difficulties is not the teacher’s job.

Know Your Child’s Rights:
Every child has a right to a good education, and there are laws that protect those rights. Understanding these laws will help you stand up for your child and make sure the school does its part. Two important laws are Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These laws ensure that all kids, including those with mental health issues, get the education they need. Schools usually offer two types of plans: Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and Section 504 Plans. IEPs are more comprehensive and can include things like extra help in a “Resource Room,” counseling, or more time for tests. Section 504 Plans focus on keeping the child in the regular classroom but provide agreed-upon support.

Ask for an Evaluation:
If you think your child’s mental health challenges are affecting their learning, ask for an evaluation in writing. Keep copies of all your communication with the school. The evaluation is crucial for creating a plan to support your child. It helps the school understand what your child needs. The school will usually pay for this evaluation, which can be done by a school psychologist or an outside professional. Even if your child has a medical diagnosis from a doctor, this school evaluation is still necessary.

Be Active in Meetings:
After the evaluation, you and your child (if appropriate) will meet with the Special Education IEP Team. This team includes teachers, the school psychologist, the school nurse, and others who were part of the evaluation. You can invite people like your child’s doctors to these meetings. You can also provide letters from your child’s healthcare providers. During these meetings, the team discusses the evaluation findings and makes recommendations for support and services to help your child. Your input is essential in this process. If you disagree with any decisions or feel your child isn’t getting the right help, you can appeal.

Keep the Communication Going:
Ask teachers to let you know if the support plan isn’t working, so adjustments can be made. Regular communication is key to the success of the plan. To advocate effectively for your child, build a positive and collaborative relationship with the school staff, keeping communication open and constructive.