Mental Health and Special Education

May 6, 2010 is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day!

According to National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey, 13% of children ages 8 to 15 have at least one mental disorder. Mental illness can have a profound affect on a child’s educational experience. If your child is struggling in school because of his or her mental health needs, consider requesting an evaluation to determine if your child has special education needs.

Some parents think children with mental illness aren’t eligible for special education services. That is simply not true. Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism, Anxiety Disorders, Bi-Polar Disorder, Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Personality Disorders, and other mental illnesses may qualify for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Whether your child qualifies depends not upon your child’s diagnosis, but upon whether he or she has a disability that adversely affects educational performance.

If your child qualifies for special education, the school must provide special education and related services designed to meet your child’s needs so that he or she can be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum. This may include counseling, modification of class schedules, classroom aides, tutoring, or a behavior intervention plan. The services your child receives depend on your child’s individual needs and are determined at a planning and placement team (PPT) meeting in which an individualized education plan (IEP) is written.

To learn more about special education, including how to request an evaluation to determine if your child needs special education and related services, visit Special Education Resources. If you’ve advocated for your child and the school is still not meeting your’s child’s needs, you may need the help of an advocate or attorney with experience in special education law.

For more information on mental health, visit the National Institute of Mental Health or the Connecticut affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI-CT.