I’ve been editing a chapter this week about a year when our son’s behavior was really spinning out of control. Violent behavior, police interactions, juvenile detention, med changes, doctor changes – and he was only nine. It was a lot to manage.
I was able to do it because I had good health, a stable job, family support, and I’m intuitive about searching out solutions. If you are lacking in even one of these things, I cannot imagine how you would manage the challenge of accessing the right resources for your child, finding a doctor, getting them to appointments, and managing their medications.
During the years our son was in self contained classrooms I witnessed not only the other children struggling but also their parents and the teachers. The parents often didn’t know where to start looking for help and the teachers were overwhelmed managing behavior issues in the classroom while trying to teach. Everyone limps through the school year managing each crisis as it pops up through a combination of suspensions, behavior management, and modifications to their educational setting.
You might be able to push them through to graduation but it’s not going to end well if the problems have not been addressed and managed early on. When you have extreme behavior issues at school it can lead to suspension. When you have extreme behavioral issues as an adult it can lead to arrest and placement in a system not setup to manage mental health. We all pay for that.
Schools need to be more proactive in managing support by developing a network of mental health resources in the community they can steer parents to. Walk them through the options. Provide an advocate. Connect them with other parents facing the same issues. Maybe something like the “emergency care hubs” Ohio is trying to setup or classes like NAMI Southeastern Arizona is offering that teach effective skills and coping methods – what great resources!
The alternative is muddling along the way we have and pushing children through the system only to come out with a bigger problem on the other end.