JULY 16TH, 2015

39930034_s“Under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, or IDEA, public school districts nationwide are required to provide a free and appropriate public education to all students diagnosed with a disability. The mandate requires schools to identify students who may have learning impairments, and to develop a plan to educate them appropriately at no extra cost to parents.”   Public Schools Delay or Deny Special Education Services for Most Vulnerable Students(NBC News)

Schooling and education are a major focus of adolescence and are one of the most frequent reasons that parents call me for a psychiatric consultation for their children. Teenagers spend most of their time during the day at school. It is easy to understand why problems at school then become such a major focus for parents – not to mention the anxiety that the teen is feeling. It is also easy to understand that problems in school are often an indicator of problems elsewhere, and it is important that parents be able to differentiate the two. As with athletics in some families, school performance becomes a major focus of parents’ anxieties, ambitions, and vicarious living. Also, they may project problems in their lives on their children’s performance.

It is normal for teenagers to experience some problems at school that are not particularly serious, especially during what are called the transition years, moving from middle school to junior high school or from high school to high school. It’s unusual to find teenagers who don’t experience some degree of stress at these times. But when school problems persist long past these transitions and become more deeply entrenched, there is a problem.

Here are some simple things to do if you suspect problems at school:

  • Contact your teenager’s guidance counselor and set-up a meeting. If there is a specific clas, that seems troubling for your teenager you should contact that teacher and ask to meet. You may want to set-up this meeting to include the guidance counselor.
  • Often an undiagnosed learning disability may be the underlying factor. Learning disorders can have a serious impact on a teen’s performance and their self-esteem. Many of you have most likely heard the terms ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), Spectrum Disorder (including Autism), and many more.

Special education is part of the public school system in the United States, and its function is to make sure that children who are diagnosed with learning disorders or medical conditions that affect learning get the services they need. Navigating the waters of the special education system can often be complicated for parents. There are both Federal and State mandates that affect special education services. Key players in making sure that your child gets the proper services include the child’s pediatrician and/or psychiatrist, the school CSE (Committee on Special Education), the school’s guidance office and teachers, and you. Sadly, there are schools who will fight or delay the services. In that case, you may need to hire an attorney or seek out a special education advocate.
Here are some resources to help you understand the rights of children with disabilities.

Robin’s blog.  She was the mother Jarrod in the NBC story.

The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), founded in 1979, is a leading national civil rights law and policy center directed by individuals with disabilities and parents who have children with disabilities.

Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.


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