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Archive for January, 2010

After Amy’s first prolonged stay at the hospital, she was released to return to school part time.  I had no idea how to make this happen but I found that the school is required by law to provide reasonable accommodation.

I found with my daughter that the school system was ill equipped initially to do this for her. It honestly appeared to us that they had never dealt with this type of situation. They all said to us “but she’s so bright and taking honor classes, she doesn’t need any accommodation”. They seemed to believe that accommodation was only necessary for children with learning problems.   Although it’s hard to believe, I think we were the first parents of a child with emotional problems seeking accommodation.

You will need to be persistent in your attempts to get help from the schools. Talk with staff members at the school until you find someone who “gets it”. Try to find an ally at the school – we talked with teachers and guidance counselors but I was prepared to take it to the administrative level (principal, superintendent) if necessary.

I found that a firm but friendly approach with them worked best. I started each conversation with the assumption that they were an ally.  You never know how much influence the person you’re talking with has so it’s best not to alienate them in your early discussions.

I would start my conversations with “Amy is having a problem making it to class early in the morning and her doctor doesn’t feel that she should be in classes full time. Can you tell me what we can do to try to help accomodate her with this?” Key words to drop here were “doctor”, “accomodate”, and “help”.

We finally found a teacher who had studied psychology. He helped convince the other staff members that Amy’s needs were just as real as those with learning difficulties. He championed Amy’s cause so well that when we had the meeting, everyone was very helpful.

The end result of that meeting was that Amy went to school in the mornings from 9:30-12:30 and took a class online in the afternoon. She only needed this for one semester but it really made a difference in her recovery.

Over the years, the school has been willing to provide additional accommodations for her.  Things that, back in my day, never seemed acceptable.  Since Amy had no behavior problems, they were willing to let her leave class any time she felt overwhelmed.  This did not even require getting permission to leave class!  They would allow her to simply get up and leave to go to her resource teacher for a pep talk and a little break.  I’m proud to say that she has now come to a point where all she needs is to leave class to go into the hall for a few minutes to calm down.  She’s such a marvel!

Moral of the story is just ask for help and keep asking until you find the answers.  The schools can be very creative in providing help once you get them on your side.

Often times, the local mental health association or state department of education has resources to help you in this, as well.  Try contacting them with your problems to see what guidance they can provide.

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A new study published  bythe Australian and New Zealand Journal  of Psychiatry has found a link between depression and being victimized by bullies.

As a parent of a bullied victim and subsequent depressed teen, I am not surprised.  Amy’s problems began in 5th grade, when she was targeted by a group of boys and verbally degraded and harassed.  She spent the whole year putting up with it, never letting on at home, but it ate away at her.  She lost her self confidence and succumbed to their torments until she began to believe them.

We didn’t know about any of this.  Her withdrawal from family and social activities was put down to her approaching teen-hood.   We just figured that she was just being a usual teen and spending all of her time in her room.  It wasn’t until a few weeks before she was to start 6th grade that we started to suspect it was something else.  She would cry at the drop of the hat and moped around complaining that school was going to start.   A few weeks after the start of school, she made her suicide attempt.  We then found out about the bullying.

We did report it to the school.  The guidance counselor told us that this couldn’t be true, those were good Christian kids and they were part of his prayer group.  And no, it wasn’t a faith based school, it was a public school.  They were given a slap on the wrist.  We were left with a shattered child.

No, it’s not fair and schools need to keep up with new developments.  Her school guidance counselor was ill equipped for his job and probably shouldn’t be in his position. I didn’t have time to complain about his handling of the situation.  We were fighting for Amy’s life, literally, and we couldn’t fight two battles at once.

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