Tips for Ensuring Your Children Are Supported in School: What School Counselors Want Parents to Know
All parents worry about their kids. Are they healthy? Safe? Happy? But if your child has a mental health condition that may affect their success in school and life, those common worries can become serious concerns.
Issues like stress, family problems, substance abuse, bullying, learning disabilities, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are taking a heavy toll on the mental and emotional health of youth. In fact, 1 in 6 school-aged children in the U.S. has a mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).1
School counselors play an important role in meeting the mental health needs of kids. These licensed counseling professionals provide critical mental health services in schools. They also work with other education professionals and community partners to make sure students with mental health conditions have the necessary resources and support to succeed in and outside of the classroom.
As a parent of a child with a mental health issue, what can you do to ensure your child has access to school counseling and other needed support? Here are four tips:2
Get a diagnosis from a professional about your child’s mental health condition. Share it with your school.
If a mental health condition is affecting your child’s ability to function at school, get a professional diagnosis. A physician, clinical mental health counselor, or other licensed mental health professional can help identify your child’s condition.
Share the diagnosis and supporting documentation from your doctor or counselor with your school. Schools are required by law to offer some level of accommodation to students with mental health needs.
Meet with the school specialist.
Almost all public and private schools have professionals available who specialize in student mental health concerns. This could be a school counselor, guidance counselor, social worker, nurse, or psychologist.
Meet in person with this professional to discuss the mental health issues your child is experiencing. Your child’s teacher and other school officials, such as a principal, might also attend the meeting. If your child is seeing a licensed clinical mental health counselor, it’s a good idea to invite that person to join, too. Together, you can come up with a plan to support your child’s needs at school and at home.
Form an ongoing partnership with your school.
Once you have a plan, continue to partner closely with the school counselor or other specialist to put it into action. Work as a team—which may include parents, school counselors, teachers, and other education professionals—to address your child’s mental health issues with needed support and resources.
A good ongoing partnership requires open, honest, and frequent communication. Check in regularly with your child’s teacher and school counselor. Ask questions about your child’s behavior at school and exchange thoughts and ideas on your child’s progress.
Know the law.
Is your child not being supported at school, even after meeting with the school counselor or other designated professional about your child’s mental health condition? You might want to request an evaluation to see if your child qualifies for special education services under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under IDEA, a mental health condition may entitle your child to special programs and services if that condition is adversely affecting their educational performance.3
If your child is not eligible under IDEA, they may still qualify for services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Section 504 requires schools to provide children with mental and physical disabilities with the same access to educational programs and services that other children have.4
If you want to support parents and school-aged kids who are struggling with mental health problems, consider a counseling career.
School counselors and other licensed professional counselors are important advocates for children with mental health problems, and they are key influencers in how schools support students’ needs.
To become a school counselor, you’ll need to earn a master’s degree in counseling. Walden University’s MS in School Counseling online degree program is excellent preparation for a career focused on helping children and teens.
To broaden your career opportunities, consider Walden’s MS Dual Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling. This online dual degree program is a good choice if you want to pursue licensure or certification as both a professional mental health counselor and a school counselor. With this counseling degree, you could still work with students in schools but also have the option to expand your professional practice to help individuals and families in mental health clinics and other environments.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering MS in School Counseling and MS Dual Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.
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