4 Back-to-School Tips for Parents of Children With Mental Illness

The time leading up to school can bring on a sense of despair and stress for parents of children with mental illness. It can be tough to make sure they get everything they need. A lot of general educators do not receive training in mental health disorders and the only resources they have, if they chose to utilize them, are the special educators, counselors and school psychologists. This can be scary to any parent.

From someone who works with students with emotional and behavioral disorders, here are some tips that could make the transition to school a little easier.

1. Know your rights as a parent.

If your child requires an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), teachers are required to follow specific goals that have been written by and agreed on by you and your child’s team. Teachers need to respect these goals. If you don’t believe your child’s new teacher is following the IEP., you can call an IEP meeting at anytime. That is your right as a parent. Every year, you should also be given a booklet that explains all of your rights and your child’s rights regarding special education as directed not by the school, but the federal government. If you do not receive a right’s booklet, advocate for yourself and ask for one. Arm yourself with the knowledge needed to support your child throughout their academic career. 

2. Meet up with your child’s teacher.

Your new teacher may not be like the last teacher your child had, so the transition from last year to this year can definitely be stressful. Make sure you meet with your child’s teacher before school starts or set up a time to speak with them one-on-one. Communication is key during the school year for your child’s success. Any information you can provide to your child’s teacher is going to be helpful. If your child needs certain items to keep them calm, inform his or her teacher. If you want daily communication, let the teacher know. Something to keep in mind is that a teacher is potentially getting up to 30 new students, so any information you can provide will help the teacher be proactive when addressing your child’s needs.

3. Do not assume your child’s teacher knows everything. 

If your child is in regular education, do not assume the teacher knows everything about your child’s disorder. While giving too much information could offend a veteran teacher, you do want to bring some information specific to your child’s disorder. Knowledge is everything. Even if the teacher has access to the child’s IEP plan prior to the school year, giving the teacher an overview will be beneficial to your nerves, and will help the teacher prepare. 

4. For the first couple of weeks, be patient. 

Each teacher is individual just like each student is individual, and most want to do what’s best for your child. Be patient with the teacher for the first couple of weeks. If you still don’t believe your child’s needs are being met, make an appointment to address the situation right away. If the problems still exist, ask to sit in on a class to see how your child is acting. 

While special education teachers should be better equipped to address your child’s needs in the classroom, general education teachers may need some extra guidance. Don’t be afraid to talk to any staff who have direct contact with your child to ensure your child’s needs are being met. You are the best advocate for your child, so feel empowered. There is nothing to be ashamed of when talking about mental illness. It’s a part of life, and doesn’t mean your child is less valuable than a typical peer. Push for your rights. Know your rights. Ask questions. The key to advocacy is to show your child they are worth the fight.

This Post Was First Published on The Mighty.

jenJenn Schwartz is a Special Education teacher for students with emotional and behavioral disorders in Henderson, NV. She has a Master’s degree in Education, specializing in students with emotional and behavioral disorders. She most recently earned a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership. Jenn is passionate about advocacy for students with mental illnesses.

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