The Schools Part In Mental Health

When a child is found eligible for special education services, a team will hold a meeting to create an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan). If your child is already eligible, the team is required to meet annually to review the IEP and make any necessary changes/updates. You can request to meet in between annual periods whenever you believe there is a need to review and consider changes to the current IEP. 

The IEP document is compromised of 5 Major Sections or Domains:

  • Curriculum and Learning
  • Independent Functioning
  • Social Emotional
  • Communication
  • Healthcare/Medical

The IEP DOES NOT simply contemplate academics as a stand alone area of need, but is intelligent enough of a document to contemplate all areas that impact academics and that effect the students participation in school. The students behaviors, emotional expression, peer relationships and relationships with school staff are all important considerations in educational
planning. Therefore, one can not logically separate a students mental health from their learning experience and school performance.

Regardless of eligibility (there are 13 categories of eligibility under IDEA), each time an IEP team meets and in-between meeting, all responsible IEP team members should be considering
the impact if any of the students mental health, social skills, self esteem, ability to self advocate, problem solving skills, behavior, emotionality and all other factors that impact the educational

School districts DO NOT diagnose mental health disorders or any other disability/disorder. School district purpose in evaluating students is twofold- to determine eligibility under Section 504 and IDEA and for educational planning purposes. School IEP Teams will use a medical diagnosis as a part of what they look at to determine IEP eligibility and determinations of need.

The diagnosis should be listed in the Healthcare/Medical Section of the IEP and if medication needs to be administered during the school day that should be noted in the IEP or 504 Plan.

Both counseling services and psychological services can be assigned through an IEP, as well as a 504 Plan. The determination of the need for such is based upon the students Present
Levels of Performance/Functioning and Annual Goals as described in the IEP. Whether the sessions are one to on or group is a team decision, as is the frequency and length of the sessions. 

Remember that your Parent Input is critical and you are an equal member of the IEP Team, therefore you participate in these kinds of considerations and decisions. When a student exhibits observable behaviors that impact his or her learning environment and that of others in the class, the school team should conduct a Functional Behavioral Assessment.

The purpose of this assessment is to study the behavior that is effecting the students access tonmeaningful educational benefit and make data driven determinations as to the function, or reason the student is engaging in the behavior. Once a function is determined, the team creates a Behavior Intervention Plan designed to meet the individual social-emotional needs of the student. It’s important to note that behavior is the leading cause of school teams recommending more

restrictive placements for students, such as self contained classrooms and separate day schools. Therefore ensuring that social-emotional remediations are appropriate and reasonably calculated to work is imperative to the students long term success, well being and access to
typical peers. For students with a mental health diagnosis, it’s imperative that an individual sits on the remediation team that has expertise and special knowledge to contribute. Teachers
levels of understanding of depression and anxiety disorder, for example, can vary greatly. 

A therapist, BCBA, counselor or child psychologist can bring insight to the team that can lead to a Behavior Plan/IEP/504 Plan that reflects the knowledge and collective understanding of the students disability and the uniqueness of its impact on them in school.

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