Children who face challenges with their mental health often struggle with learning in school, as well as navigating the social and interpersonal interactions that take place in a traditional learning environment.
Studies have shown that 1 in 10 youth has a mental health issue severe enough to negatively affect or impair their ability to function at school, home, and within their communities. And, 1 in 5 children has a diagnosable mental health disorder. *
The good news is that many of the mental health issues that develop in young people are treatable and many of the challenges they face can be successfully addressed to aid in their development, interactions, and current and future successes. With the right treatment services in place, these children can succeed academically and socially.
If you are a parent or an educator looking for ways to help a child who is struggling, here are some points to consider:
- Realize that a mental health condition can affect children in different ways. There often can be differences in behaviors between children diagnosed with the same condition.
- It’s important to remember that being a child can be challenging, even without the added challenge of a mental health condition. Minds and bodies are growing and developing, we need to remember maturity, coping mechanisms, and understanding need the time to evolve, and that mistakes will be made along this journey for both children both with and without a diagnosed mental health condition.
- There will be good days and bad days when the symptoms are harder to manage.
- There is no one size fits all treatment or intervention approach that will effectively work for every child in every situation. The individual needs of each child need to be considered and the interventions need to be flexible to give the right amount of support needed.
Oftentimes, a child with mental health issues can become anxious in certain situations. Some things that could be considered to help a child with a mental health condition succeed in school are:
- Working with the child to practice social interactions and communication.
- Allowing for flexible homework deadlines or a re-do option to build self-confidence and ease the anxiety of “doing it wrong”, which may prevent the child from wanting to attempt an assignment altogether.
- Allow for breaks to provide opportunities to destress.
- Help the teacher have a plan in place to help when a child is unable to focus due to anxiety, and have the right protocols in place to help a child experiencing anxiety.
The important point is to have the parents and the school communicating and working together to create a good working relationship that ultimately helps the child succeed. It can be daunting to advocate for your child’s needs. Here is a link that provides 25 suggestions of what you can do to help advocate for your child here.
At American Behavior Clinics, we can help you help your child succeed as well. Learn more here.
*Kessler, R. C., Berglund, P., Demler, O., et al. (2005). Life-time prevalence and age-of-onset distribution of DSM-IV disorders in the national co-morbidity survey replication. Archives of General Psychiatry 62, 593-602.