When children struggle emotionally they are less likely to TELL us but they will SHOW us with behaviors. These behaviors are often observed in the classroom. For example, an anxious child might complain about stomach aches, or headaches and often request to go to the school clinic. They also might have trouble focusing in class. Children who are sad, angry or confused about a change in their family life, might act out in school, refuse to participate in class, fail to complete assignments, or withdraw from their classmates.
When a teacher notices your child’s behavior is new or worsening, they usually communicate these concerns directly to the parents or school counselor. The school counselor might meet with the child and offer some support. However, if it is determined that the child needs more regular support, it will be recommended that parents seek a child psychologist or a child therapist.
Once the family selects a therapist for their child, the therapist must communicate with the school. Children who are in therapy, benefit from having the adults in their lives actively involved in their treatment process. After all, children often spend more time at school than they do at home and teachers can be an integral part of your child’s progress in treatment. Due to confidentiality in therapy, a Release of Information should be signed by the parents to allow for mutual exchange of information between the school and the therapist. Depending on the accessibility of the teacher, the therapist can communicate either via email, telephone or in-person to gather information about the child, their strengths, their needs, and formulate a more comprehensive treatment plan.
Whenever working with children in therapy, the goal should be a collaborative approach with the child’s “village” for the well being of the child.
Classroom observations are another great way for the therapist to obtain important information about your child’s daily functioning. A therapist can also observe the classroom environment. The therapist can provide feedback and support to the teacher to create a more nurturing learning environment. The therapist and teacher can come together to identify alternative strategies in the classroom to more effectively motivate her students.
A therapist can also recommend that your child be placed on a 504 plan and can guide parents in how to request consideration for additional support with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). If the child is already receiving accommodations via a 504 Plan or IEP, the therapist can review accommodations or interventions outlined in these plans, and provide feedback or recommendations. A child’s therapist may also attend and participate in the child’s IEP or Response to Intervention (RTI) meetings.
Before going into private practice, I worked for a children’s community mental health agency providing therapy in schools. This was an invaluable experience as I learned a lot about the ins and outs of the school system. I worked with teachers, school counselors and, psychologists, and often served as a liaison between the school and the parents. I also understand that teachers and school staff have limited resources. I sat in many IEP meetings advocating for children, at times educating the staff about trauma and encouraging them to look beyond the child’s behavior to identify the child’s true needs. It was amazing to see children’s behavior, self- esteem, motivation and, grades improve by getting the child’s ” village” on the same page.
I have always been passionate about helping children, and in my private practice today I continue to go above and beyond just the weekly therapy sessions. I still go into schools, for meetings and classroom observations. I still maintain communication with teachers. The approach remains comprehensive and the goal is to create a “village” to support the children.
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