Is your family in crisis?
Does your child have a mental health diagnosis? Or do you suspect one?
Are you working within or toward an IEP, whether in a public school or NPS placement?
Do you have a 504 Plan?
I was in crisis with my now-10 year old son for many years, with grave severity beginning when he was 5 years old, and had just completed kindergarten.
So, I know distinctly how it feels to be completely overwhelmed, assaulted on a daily basis, in tears most days, visiting the psychiatric ER and begging for help, embarrassed about the holes in my doors and walls, and completely alone.
I want to help you.
I highly recommend that if your school as not yet initiated an Educationally Related Mental Health Services (“ERMHS”) Assessment, that you request one immediately, and that you inquire about “wraparound.”
“ERMHS are mental health services that are provided to students receiving special education services. These services are provided when students have significant socio-emotional or socio- behavioral needs that impede their ability to benefit from their special education services.” See https://www.uacf4hope.org/post/educationally-related-mental-health-services-ermhs
The “wraparound” process offers a viable means of improving quality-of-life issues for your child and your entire family on all fronts.
“Wraparound is a philosophy of care with a defined planning process used to build constructive relationships and support networks among students and youth with emotional or behavioral disabilities (EBD) and their families. It is community based, culturally relevant, individualized, strength based, and family centered. Wraparound plans are comprehensive and address multiple life domains across home, school, and community, including living environment; basic needs; safety; and social, emotional, educational, spiritual, and cultural needs. Another defining feature of wraparound is that it is unconditional; if interventions are not achieving the outcomes desired by the team, the team regroups to rethink the configuration of supports, services, and interventions to ensure success in natural home, school, and community settings. In other words, students do not fail, but plans can fail. Rather than forcing a student to fit into existing program structures, wraparound is based on the belief that services and supports should be flexibly arranged to meet the unique needs of the students and their families.” See https://www.pbis.org/school/tertiary-level/wraparound
It sounds amazing, right?
It is AMAZING.
Sadly, I sincerely believe that if my own child’s mental health issues had been address through this planning process in the 1st grade, when we initially requested that he be assessed, that he would not have ended up in a NPS placement in the 4th grade, and now 5th grade.
A side note regarding your rights — If you request an assessment, then your District must provide you with an Assessment Plan or give you a very clear reason why they are refusing to do it. They can not just decide that your child does not need to be assessed, without detailing the reasons for their position, and providing you with written notice thereof.
By the fall of 1st grade, my child was seeing a psychiatrist, he had been 5150’d and was in the care of a mental health facility for a week’s duration, he had an official diagnosis of Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), he was taking two separate medications for his mental health diagnoses, and our family – and more specifically my child – was clearly in a state of ongoing and visible crisis, which was not logically separable from my child’s ability to access his education.
He was in CRISIS.
And he was not able to fully access his education.
Further, as agreed by our District when they provided him with a 504 Plan and some basic in-class accommodations, he had a mental health disability and was therefore a member of a protected class under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 702 et seq., a civil rights statute which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
Yes, my child was offered in-class accommodations under Section 504.
But again, he was not assessed.
It would have been a simple matter to administer the ERMHS Assessment at the outset, to consider the vast array of information available in and out of school indicating the impact of his mental health disability on his life and his learning, and to make a referral for wraparound supports.
This was not done.
And it is truly regrettable.
When I would visit the psychiatric ER with my son for his periodic and severe issues, I would hear about these “wraparound” services provided through the County from the young social workers, but we were not in an income bracket for which access was granted via the County Hospital.
It is true that referrals to these services often come through CPS and other services, and County-Based services are (thankfully) more available to those who are of lower incomes and who may not have private insurance.
I now know that schools (LEA’s) can make these referrals as well, but we had no idea.
We tried to find out more, to find a way to emulate the concept of “wraparound” support in our home through our private insurance. They were aware of the severity of the issues, and were actually willing to cover costs — if we could find a provider. This proved to be difficult to do.
I am beyond thankful that my child was eventually referred to receive wraparound supports.
It has been so impactful for him and our entire family.
We have access to a team of caring and empathetic professionals.
I do wonder, frequently actually, how different the past three (3) years would have been if my child had been properly assessed and referred for these services at that time.
I don’t dwell on it, but it crosses my mind.
As a co-founder of snkids.org, it is my sincere goal to alter our current systems to better serve our kids and to enable them to reach better outcomes in life.
Before snkids.org, and indeed, when I was a member of my own District’s School Board as a Governing Trustee, my child and my family were in crisis.
I am now able to see the bigger picture, and the systemic flaws that exist, and I am dedicated to doing whatever I can to help other children and families.
I invite you to share your story and to join us in fighting to make sure that all children can easily access the supports they need.
Their success depends on it.
*If you have questions about the “wraparound” process or my family’s and my child’s personal experience with it, please do not hesitate to contact me. I would be happy to share any degree of detail with you.
Also note, I live in California, so if you live elsewhere, your State’s assessment and provision of ERMHS supports may vary.