It seems like every day we hear or read something in the news about the emotional toll that COVID is having on people. For children of all ages, the isolation of sitting alone in an online class is causing depression and anxiety in kids who have never before suffered from either. They may be physically safer by attending classes from their bedrooms, but emotionally, many are flailing. I have had more calls from parents about their children shutting down, refusing to engage in school at all remotely, and in same cases, even in person. The damage this is causing is likely more profound than any of us realizes.
The question I get most often is, “Is there anything the school can do for my child who now has anxiety?” Fortunately, the answer is yes. Unfortunately, it is often not as easy as flipping a switch.
Even if your child does not currently receive special education services, he or she may still benefit from resources at the school. If the anxiety or depression is preventing the child from engaging, as a parent, you have the right to ask the school to conduct a psychological evaluation. This is the beginning of the eligibility process to determine if your child requires direct services to access the curriculum. After you consent to the evaluation, the district has 45 school days to conduct the evaluation and meet with you to go over the results in what is known as a “team meeting.” If the team determines that your child does need additional services or support, then the district will create an individual education program (“IEP”) for your child, which will outline exactly what your child needs to participate academically.
If your child does not qualify for an IEP, or you do not wish to have him or her formally assessed, you can contact your school’s guidance counselor (or special education department) to discuss creating a 504 plan. A 504 plan, while a legal document, does not have as many protections as an IEP does, but it still must be followed. Whereas an IEP allows for modifications to a student’s schedule and education, a 504 allows only for accommodations. For a student with anxiety, these might include access to a guidance counselor or trusted staff member as needed, access to a quiet room or space to take tests, frequent check-ins by classroom teacher, and permission to wear noise-cancelling headphones.
What is important to note is that your child does not have to suffer silently. Find out what your child needs, and ask for it. In some cases, it may be a simple accommodation, like an extra movement break. If you have questions about your child’s educational needs, contact Holly Lynch Law today.