Communicating With Your Teenager

Communicating With Your Teenager

As a psychotherapist works with teenagers and their parents, I have heard a common complaint from both teenagers and their parents. Both complain about difficulties with communication. Teenagers feel that their parents don’t understand them. And parents tell me they feel like they cannot communicate with their teenagers.
I have stated in prior articles that if parents want to have good communication with their children, they must work on the parent-child relationship early. The earlier the better. If you wait until your child in a teenager, it is very difficult due to the brain development during puberty. When children are born their brains are not fully developed. Their brains, reasoning and communication skills continue to develop as a child grows. Parents need to be prepared for these changes.

I recently read a blog by Dr. Denny Coats which deals with this issue. He breaks the issue down to thee points for parents to understand and work on. I think these three points make it easy for parents to understand what is occurring and what they need to do. So hear they are:

1. Improve your communication skills

You can get away with almost any way of communicating during early childhood; but once adolescence arrives, reacting in the typical way not only won’t get you the results you hope for, it will erode the relationship. In my opinion, five skills matter most.

Listening. If learning only one skill is all your busy life permits, this is the one you should focus on. Learn all you can about listening and set a goal of to continuously improve the way you listen for the rest of your life.

Encouraging your child to think – analyzing, evaluating, learning from experience, problem-solving, decision-making, goal-setting, planning, and organizing. Yes, you’re a lot smarter than your child and you can the thinking for them, just as you’ve done during early childhood. But these mental skills take time and quite a lot of repetition to master, and your child will need them to succeed in a career, life and relationships.

Giving effective feedback – both praise and constructive feedback. Your child will need it, but you need to offer it in a specific, positive way, so that it both guides and encourages.

Dialogue. When you have differences of opinion, arguing is the instinctive reaction. The problem is that it resolves nothing and tends to alienate the child. You can learn to share and probe each other’s thinking, instead.

Conflict resolution. When your child wants something that is unacceptable to you, it’s possible to explore other alternatives that satisfy both your needs and those of your child.

These are the skills you’ll need to deal with daily challenges and opportunities and to have the dozen or so “talks” every parent should have with their growing child. Search my blog for articles about these skills. The online self-paced Strong for Parenting program has videos, articles and tip sheets about these skills. Begin experimenting with one skill at a time and learn from your experiences using it with your family.

2. Get smart about the brain development that will happen during adolescence.

It will be invisible, slow, silent and relentless, with enormous consequences. So much depends on the kind of thinking your child exercises during the teen years, and there’s much you can do as a parent to optimize the result. I wrote the free ebook, The Race against Time, to help parents appreciate what’s going on and what they can do.

3. Acknowledge that during adolescence, you’ll be raising an adult, not a child.

Yes, prior to puberty, you are definitely dealing with a child. And after puberty, you won’t be dealing with an adult. Your kid will be a no-longer-a-child-but not-yet-an-adult, what we call an adolescent.

During those six or seven years before he or she leaves home to go to college, start a career, enter military service, or even start their own family, your child hopefully will construct the foundation for the mental skills that will be needed for adult life. And aside from academic learning, teenagers have plenty of social and life skills to learn. if you think of your child as an “apprentice adult,” you’ll deal with them on that level, expect more of them and give them opportunities to learn the skills and wisdom they’ll need. If you realize you’re helping your child become a successful, responsible, happy adult, you can get a lot done. And believe me, for too many teenagers much of this development is haphazard or nonexistent.

So start now. Start improving the communication skills that matter. Help your child practice the mental skills that will give them a superior mind. Start thinking of your tween as an “emerging adult,” so that month by month and year by year you can help them prepare for adult life. 

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their parents. For more information regarding his work or private practice please visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.

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Does Your Teenager Spend Too Much Time on the Internet?

Does Your Teenager Spend Too Much Time on the Internet?

 A common argument I hear daily in my office is how much time should an adolescent be spending on their laptop or their smart phone. Parents typically believe that their adolescents are spending too much time on their cellphones and laptops. Of course adolescents feel that their parents are being unfair and not allowing them enough time on their cellphones or laptops. Adolescents typically say they need their laptops and cellphones for homework and to communicate with their friends. They feel that their parents don’t understand how the world works today.
In fact 20/20 the ABC News Show, just did a story about how the internet is affecting teenager’s brains. We now have MRI evidence which demonstrates too much screen time has a negative effect on teenage brains and adult brains. They also discussed the issue of Internet addiction. While the American Psychological Association feels more research is needed before it can be labeled a formal diagnosis, think about it? If you can be addicted to porn, gambling or exercise, why not the Internet? I have included a link to a video discussing how the internet is impacting teenagers’ brains https://youtu.be/6Ggz9h7S4b4.

The major problem is that today’s adolescents have grown up with the internet, laptops and smart phones their entire lives. Texting is a very common method of communication for teenagers too. I have teens telling texting is their primary way of communicating with friends. However, most parents grew up when laptops could not do as much and cellphones were typically only used for making a telephone calls not texting. Therefore, there is a difference of opinion regarding how teenagers should use technology and how their parents have used technology over the years. Especially, because when most parents were teenagers themselves technology was not so prevalent.

Besides parents and teens having different views about technology. Parents are worried that their teenager is becoming addicted to the Internet and their cellphones. Having seen how some teens react to having their cellphones or the Internet taken away, I can understand why some parents feel their teenager is addicted to the Internet.  

However, parents have additional concerns too. Parents are concerned that with all the texting teens do and all the time they spend on the Internet that their teens are becoming anti-social. Other concerns are the amount of bullying that occurs online, the sexual perpetrators that are online and how easy it is for teens to obtain drugs online. Another concern is that their teen may be involved in sexting or sending naked photos of themselves while on line. Sexting is a relatively new phenomenon so we don’t have a great deal of information regarding it.

However, we do have evidence to support parents’ concerns. There are numerous examples of cyberbullying and examples of teens commuting suicide due to cyberbullying. There is evidence of child predators using the internet to prey on teenagers. There is also evidence of teenagers being able to access drugs easier and engaging in sexting and sending sexually explicit photographs of themselves via the Internet and texting.

Therefore, there are reasons for parents to be concerned. While there are research studies which indicate that there are reasons to be concerned about how much teenagers use cellphones and go online, there is also research showing there is reason to be concerned about what teenagers are exposed to online and can access online. Some studies do conclude that teenagers spend to much time daily online and on their cellphones. Some studies indicate that teenagers should be limited to one to two hours per day online. As I stated above, the American Psychological Association is considering including a diagnosis of internet addiction in the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual. However, because the amount of people using cellphones and the internet in numerous ways, there is no agreement about what defines an addiction and what is normal usage. Therefore, parents are encouraged to monitor their teens and use their own judgement regarding rules involving cellphones and the internet.

While, there is research indicating that the internet can pose a danger to teenagers, there is also research showing that there are benefits to the internet and cellphones. The research has shown that teenagers who are depressed, anxious or questioning their sexuality that they can find cites online where they can talk with other teens feeling the same way. Texting has been shown as a way friends have of identifying friends who are suicidal. Because of the Internet, they were able to get their friend help. In fact, just this week, Facebook has added additional ways that people can get help for someone especially if they feel their friend might be suicidal. Many teens I work with find it easier to open up to friends or parents via texting or emailing at times. Therefore, while research shows there are reasons to be concerned, there are also studies indicating that cellphones and the internet can provide positive benefits to teenagers.

So, what do parents do? At this point there are no firm answers because this technology is so new. Therefore, parents need to pay attention to the news and research studies that are being reported. Furthermore, parents need to have conversations with their teenagers and educate their teens about the risk associated with texting and the internet. Also parents need to use their judgement and set rules regarding cellphones, texting and using the internet that they feel are appropriate. Currently, the accepted amount of time for a teen to be online recreationally so for fun and this doesn’t include homework is one to two hours a day.

Another issue is that Internet addiction may also affect adults. Therefore parents, you need to monitor your internet use and set an example for your teenagers. Such as no cellphones during dinner or no cellphones or Internet use after 9pm during the week. These are a couple of examples.

As for treatment of Internet addiction. The Utah Wilderness Camps they showed on 20/20, I do not recommend. These camps typically costs thousands of dollars and are not covered by insurance. Also so far, I have not seen a teenager benefit from attending one. In my opinion, individual psychotherapy is appropriate. Because just like any other addictions/compulsion, there are always underlying emotional issues that need to be addressed.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. Dr. Rubino does treat teens and adults who feel they are addicted to texting or the internet. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3.

The Truth About Teenagers and Underground Parties

The Truth About Teenagers and Underground Parties

The fire in the Oakland Warehouse was a terrible, tragedy. A number of young lives were lost needlessly and many families and friends are going through the grieving process because they lost a loved one. Unfortunately, this tragedy that was waiting to happen and could happen again. Summer is coming and many teenagers will be going to similar underground parties.
These “underground parties” are very common with teenagers and college students. The place of the parties are usually posted on Facebook or other social media sites that teenagers use the day before the party. Typically these parties occur in warehouses in Oakland and San Francisco. The party organizers do not get permits nor do they consider safety. Typically at these parties there is a lot of alcohol and drugs such as ecstasy, pink, spice, wax, heroin etc. Therefore, the party organizers are looking for out of the way locations were they are unlikely to be detected by the police.

Many teenagers view these parties as fun because of the dancing and because typically these parties start late at night and go until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. Also since it is undergone if they want to drink or use any of the drugs they can. All they need is the money to buy it and no one will stop them.

Typically a teen will be looking on social media to find the underground parties for the weekend. Often while online they meet other people who are going and they often make plans to go with someone they just met online. Since the parties start usually after 10pm many parents don’t know if their teenager is going to an underground party. The teen usually says they are spending the night at a friends house and they sneak out of the friends house to go to the party.

I have had many teenagers tell me about these parties. When I point out the risk such as they don’t know anything about who set it up, the safety of the area or the warehouse, the safety of the people since they just met these people and the safety of the drugs since they have no idea about what they are really taking or drinking. Teenagers tend to say that I am overly concerned and there is nothing to worry about because they have gone to these parties before.

However, the fire that occurred in the Oakland warehouse shows there is something to worry about. The organizer had no concerns about safety nor is he taking responsibility for the fire and what happened. Furthermore, since it was done secretly no one knows for sure who was there and if they are safe or not. I saw a page on Facebook for people to check in as safe. However, this doesn’t help the families who are waiting to hear about a loved one or who lost a loved one.

Parents this is an excellent time to sit down with your teenager and talk about these “underground parties.” Teenagers have a lot of free time during the summer and they feel entitled to be able to party because they were in school all year. Discuss the dangers associated with these parties. Teenagers may argue about the fact that these parties are safe, but point to the Oakland party as an example that the parties are not safe. Discuss with your teen other places they can go to and hear the tech and dance music and where they can go and dance.

Parents we also need to put pressure on the authorities to hold the owner of these warehouses and party organizers responsible for what happens at these parties. The Oakland fire was a horrific event. Also many kids overdose at these parties. Many of these teens die because no one wants to call the police or everyone is so busy dancing and using that they don’t notice if someone has overdosed. Again, the organizer is never held responsible.

One last point, parents when you discuss the “underground parties” with your teenagers use the Oakland fire as proof that bad things can and do happen. Many teenagers feel safe taking chances with their lives because they don’t believe anything will happen to them. The tragedy in Oakland proves something can happen.

This was a terrible tragedy and hopefully we can prevent others from occurring in the future.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and learning about their online activities. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Issues Related to Teenage Suicide

Issues Related to Teenage Suicide

May is devoted to Mental Health Awarness. One issue that we need to address is suicide a mental health issue for children and teenagers that often is ignored. I hope the information in this article helps you understand the issue of suicide. To start off with, I have included an article where six people describe their suicidal feelings and the help they need http://linkis.com/huffingtonpost.co.uk/AlJc2http://linkis.com/huffingtonpost.co.uk/AlJc2.

In today’s society there has been a significant increase in depression, anxiety and suicide among teenagers and children. In fact, suicide is the third leading cause of death in children 10 to 18 years old. Yes 10 year old children are committing suicide daily. The increase is significant enough that Netflix is running a series about teenagers feeling suicidal. The show is called 13 reasons why.

In my practice I am seeing more and more children and teens reporting they feel depressed, anxious and overwhelmed. One of the main reasons I hear for these feelings is that children feel a great deal of pressure to succeed in school. I have kids in 5th grade and 6th grade worrying about grades. Not because their parents will get mad because if they don’t get As they wont get into a good college and won’t get a good job and won’t be able to afford a house. They only feel like a success if they can make a lot of money. They don’t even consider how compassionate and caring many of them are and the good they offer our world. In their eyes, compassion is nothing if you are not driving a Mercedes.

This is a great deal for a 5th grader or 6th grader to worry about at their age. It is also a terrible way for them to value theirselves. This is how we create Bullies because compassion is looked at as a weakness.

I also see middle school students and high school students involved in several sports and other activities such as Boy Scouts. The kids are feeling pressured to do extracurricular activities not for fun but for their resume. They are again concerned about getting into a good college and being a success. This pressure is not coming from parents either. It is pressure kids are now placing on themselves.

Recent studies are showing a correlation between lack of fun and time to relax with the increase in depression in children and teenagers. A study in Psychology Today discusses this issue. I have included the link so parents can read this study and think about it. Also so you can look at your children and talk with them. See if they are enjoying life or feeling overwhelmed because they need to succeed. Money pays the bills but doesn’t guarantee happiness https://www.psychologytoday.co…

Dr. Michael Rubino is an expert working with children and teenagers for over 20 years. For more information about Dr. Rubino and his work visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com

Cellphones as a Graduation Gift

Cellphones as a Graduation Gift

In today’s society many people including teenagers view cell phones as a necessity of life. However, cellphones are a privilege not a necessity. We need to remember that fact. 
In a couple of weeks many 8th grade students will be graduating from Middle School and moving on to High School. Many of those 8th grade students, who do not have cellphones, will be asking for cellphones as graduation gifts. For those 8th grade students who have cellphones will be asking for better cellphones as graduation gifts. The cellphone or smartphones are very popular graduation gifts.

Many people have forgotten that cellphones are privileges especially teens and children in Middle School. This is a common argument I encounter between children and parents. The other argument that is common between parent and children is how much and where the cell phone is being used. Teens basically accuse parents of child abuse if they say no to a phone or if the parent set limits. You are not being abusive, you are being a responsible parent. Remember being a parent is not a popularity contest. You need to do what you feel is best for your child.

This is an area where technology has moved faster than our ethics. If you think about it, IPhones and Smartphones were not around in the year 2000. Now everyone including a majority of teens have an IPhone or Smartphone. In my opinion an adolescent does not need a cellphone until they enter Middle School and at that point all they need is a basic cellphone. They need a basic phone so they can check-in with you if their plans change or if they feel they are in need of help.

There is no reason that a teenager really needs a Smartphone. They are not taking care of a family nor are they running a business. Therefore, a basic cellphone should be adequate for what they need it for. I understand that given the way our society has changed some parents may find that it is helpful to their family if a child in middle school has a cellphone. This is a decision that every parent needs to make based on their family’s situation.

The parent needs to make this decision, not let the child guilt them into buying them a cell phone as a graduation gift. If you are divorced and have children, this may be extremely difficult, but the decision about if your child gets a cellphone as a graduation gift or not, should be a joint decision by both parents and a decision you both agree on. One parent should not buy a cellphone without consulting the other parent and they should not use it as a weapon in the divorce.

If you decide that your middle school child is mature enough for a cellphone as a graduation gift, you should discuss the rules and guidelines about using the phone prior to getting a phone. Some things to discuss are who they give their cell number to, not texting during class and not taking it into the bedroom at night so they can text most of the night. Many kids will text with their friends until 2 or 3 am and then be too tired for school the next day.

Also there should be a discussion about sharing photos. You never know what someone will do with a photo if they get mad with you. Also there needs to be a discussion about the law. It is not uncommon for teens to send their boyfriend/girlfriend nude photos of themselves. What they don’t understand is they are under the age of 18 years old. Therefore, if they have a nude picture of their 15 year old girlfriend, they can be charged with possession of child pornography. Many may say this won’t happen to me, but I have had a number of teens in psychotherapy because they were charged with having child pornography. Also you need to remember, once those pictures are out on the internet, they are out there forever. There also needs to be a discussion about on-line perpetrators too. There are many pedophiles on line trying to lure unsuspecting teens into their plans. Your children need to understand this is a real risk and what to watch for.

Finally, it should be made clear that the phone does not belong to the child — the phone belongs to you the parent. Yes you are giving them the phone as a gift, but it still belongs to you. If you ask for it back, then the child hands it over no questions asked. Also if you feel they are using their phone in an inappropriate manner, all you need to do is call your cellphone carrier and request that their phone line be suspended. It cost you nothing and it is an easy way to control the phone. When you feel that your child has earned the right to have the cellphone back all you do is call your carrier to reinstate that phone line.

It is very important that you and your teen have an agreement about conditions regarding their cellphone use. All of these conditions and agreements should be written down in an agreement that you sign and the child signs. You each get a copy of the agreement and one copy is posted on the refrigerator. If there are any disputes about a rule, you simply go back to the agreement and you follow what is written. A written agreement is very important because I have seen parents have conversations, make agreements and then 6 months later there is a disagreement and everyone’s memory is slightly different so you have a big fight.

Also given how many adults have gotten into trouble with their Smartphones, if you are going to allow your child to use any kind of cellphone you must discuss the pros and cons so the child does not get into major trouble with the phone.

Below I have included a sample contract that you can use with your child and modify as you need. I will not bring my cellphone to the family dinner table. I will not go over our plan’s monthly minutes or text message limits. If I do, I understand that I may be responsible for paying any additional charges or that I may lose my cellphone privileges. I understand that I am responsible for knowing where my phone is, and for keeping it in good condition. I understand that my cellphone may be taken away if I talk back to my parents, I fail to do my chores, or I fail to keep my grades up.

I will obey rules of etiquette regarding cell phones in public places. I will make sure my phone is turned off when I am in church, in restaurants, or quiet settings. I will obey any rules my school has regarding cellphones, such as turning them off during class, or keeping them on vibrate while riding the school bus. I promise I will alert my parents when I receive suspicious or alarming phone calls or text messages from people I don’t know. I will also alert my parents if I am being harassed by someone via my cellphone. I will not use my cellphone to bully another person.

I will send no more than _____ texts per day I understand that having a cellphone can be helpful in a emergency, but I know that I must still practice good judgment and make good choices that will keep me out of trouble or out of danger.

I will not send embarrassing photos of my family or friends to others. In addition, I will not use my phone’s camera to take embarrassing photos of others. I understand that having a cell phone is a privilege, and that if I fail to adhere to this contract, my cell phone privilege may be revoked.

Cell Phone Contract: Parent Responsibilities I understand that I will make myself available to answer any questions my tween might have about owning a cellphone and using it responsibly. I will support my child when he or she alerts me to an alarming message or text message that he or she has received. I will alert my child if our cellphone plan changes and impacts the plan’s minutes. I will give my child _______ warning(s) before I take his or her cellphone away Signed ______________________________ (Tween) Signed ______________________________ (Parents) Date ______________________________
Dr. Michael Rubino has been working with middle school and high school students for over 20 years. He is considered an expert in this field. Dr. Rubino is one of the founding members of the National Alive & Free Program, a program designed to work with teens. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Your Divorce is not Part of Your Teenager’s Graduation

Your Divorce is not Part of Your Teenager’s Graduation

             Divorce brings a lot of new situations in to a people’s lives especially if you have children. Hopefully, when you and your spouse divorced it was done in a civil manner and the children were not put in the middle of the divorce. This is the ideal situation, however, we do not always get the ideal situation. Very often divorces are high conflict and the two of you argue over everything and anything. Usually in these high conflict divorces, the children are put in the middle and used as weapons. The children feel they have to choose between their mother and their father. This is a very sad situation.

This conflict usually interferes with visitations and holidays too. Parents argue about pick up times and drop off times, how long they have the children for holidays and there is often arguments about can a child bring toys or clothes from Dad’s house to Mom’s house. In short, parents argue about everything and the children become sick and tired of the arguing.

The other factor that adds to this is grandparents saying negative things about the ex wife or ex-husband. This only increases the pressure and stress the children are dealing with after a divorce.

The final stressor is when one or both parents remarry or have a long term boyfriend or girlfriend. Then the arguments about she is not my child’s mother or he is not my child’s father and I don’t want them involved in my child’s life start. Also a new girlfriend or boyfriend can cause teens to argue with their parents because they want their parents back together.

In short in a high conflict divorce, children live in a war zone. They become use to arguing about everything and often feel they must choose sides. At times some children do choose sides hoping to end the fighting or because they are so confused. This type of divorce creates a great deal of issues for children and I cannot cover all the issues in this blog. I would need a book to cover all the issues. Most the time, teens become sick and tired of the fighting and wish that their parents would stop fighting so they could at least not have to worry about what will cause the next argument.

Graduation is one of those issues. Parents will often start arguing about issues such as, “I paid for everything you needed for high school and now your father wants to come.” Or “if your mother shows up, after everything she has done, I won’t be in the same room as her.” And of course there is always the issue of “he better not bring her to my child’s graduation.” What is a teenager to do?

They have spent the last four years working very hard in high school and graduation is a day for them to celebrate their accomplishment. They also usually want the people who they love and care about to be there with them to celebrate their accomplishment. However, how does this happen when Mom and Dad and grandparents are stating their terms about who can attend graduation and how graduation day will go because of the divorce.

Your teenager did not get divorced. You and your spouse divorced and even though you are no longer married, you are both still parents for your teenager and you need to act like parents and adults. This means putting aside all your feeling and issues so your teenager can truly celebrate their day, their graduation. Most parents have told their teens to stop being selfish and to think about someone else, at some point during High School. Well isn’t it time that you followed your own advice. Stop thinking about yourselves and your divorce and think about your teenager and how you can make your teenager’s graduation a happy day for them.

What you need to do is you and your ex spouse need to sit down together or email each other and discuss how the two of you can put your issues on hold for one day so your teenager can have what they deserve, a happy graduation. The two of you need to talk with grandparents too and other extended family and inform them what will be allowed and what will not. This doesn’t mean you have to act like best friends. You simply need to be civil to each other. If you don’t think you can sit next to each other at the graduation, then one of you sits on the left and one sits on the right. You don’t have to have a joint party either. You can decide to have separate parties. The key is communicating with each other before the graduation and decide how you can do it civilly. This will be the best graduation present that you can give your teenager. If you can allow them to have their graduation day to celebrate their accomplishment without having to worry about what fight there will be. You are also teaching them a lesson about love, being parents and relationships.

The most important thing to do is remember this is a celebration. So let your teenager celebrate and allow yourselves to celebrate with your teenager as their mother and father. Remember the divorce ended your marriage not your relationship together as parents. Do not allow your divorce to deprive you from enjoying your child’s High School graduation day with them. They only graduate from high school once.

Dr. Michael Rubino has 20 years experience working with teenagers and families coping with divorce. He is an expert in providing psychotherapy treatment for children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino or his private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com. 

What Parents Need to Know about IEPs and Schools

What Parents Need to Know about IEPs and Schools

It is the end of the school year and schools are starting to review and reassess children’s IEPs (Individualized Educational Plan) or 504 plans. I have been hearing from parents all over the country who are afraid about lies they are hearing at their child’s school. Many of these parents are panicked and overwhelmed. They know their child needs help at school but they do not want to ruin their child’s future.
The issue that parents are feeling confused about is should their child have an IEP or a 504 plan. An IEP is for children who are having difficulty learning subjects in the classroom. Not because they have low intelligence, because they have a different learning style. I have seen numerous parents and received numerous emails from parents stating their child’s school has told them an IEP would mark their child for life as unintelligent and possibly bankrupt the school district. None of these remarks are true.

An IEP will not stop your child from getting into a college or getting a job. Not having a decent education can stop your child from getting into college or getting a job. Therefore, if your child needs an IEP and not a 504 Plan in order to benefit from their education, not having an IEP could stop your child from getting into college or a job because they failed to receive a proper education.  

Also think about when you applied for college or a job, did they ever ask for your middle school or elementary school records? The answer is no. Therefore, there is no way for a college or job to know if they ever had an IEP unless your child volunteers the information when they apply for college. Once again, colleges and jobs never ask an applicant if they ever had an IEP. Actually, an IEP can help students receive additional time taking the SAT and ACT and assist in college if they need it. So actually, it can help a child applying to college.

As for the idea that an IEP will bankrupt the school district, this is absurd. The school districts have plenty of money to provide children who need an IEP with an IEP. A 504 plan costs the district nothing and if the district fails to comply with the 504 plan, you really have no legal recourse. The IEP process is the same across the Country and if the school doesn’t comply with the IEP, you have a number of options.

Parents before you panic or sign anything with the school district stop and think. Look at the proposed plan and decide do you think this is really what your child needs or is the school bullying you into signing their proposed plan. If you have doubts, don’t sign and seek a second opinion. You are the one in charge. The school district cannot do anything until you sign the agreement. I have seen many parents made to feel guilty if they do not sign the school’s plan. You are not a bad parent, you are a cautious parent. I have seen many schools doing what is best for them financially not what is best for your child.

For more information about IEPs and 504 plans visit the website http://www.lucascenter.org.

Dr. Michael Rubino has worked with children and families for over 20 years. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website http://www.rcs-ca.com