Mental Health Issues Are Not A Punishment

Mental Health Issues Are Not A Punishment

Mental health is a topic we tend to avoid in our society. We avoid it so much that the month of May is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness. Many people are afraid that if other people know they are feeling down or anxious that people will think they are crazy. Many people think of someone living in the streets when you mention mental health. This is not reality. This negative stigma makes it difficult for adults to seek help for mental health issues. This negative stigma also makes it very difficult for children to ask for help when they feel depressed or anxious. They are afraid their friends won’t understand and won’t want to be friends with them. They are also afraid their parents will think they are crazy and be disappointed with them. These ideas are incorrect, but if mental health is overwhelming for an adult, imagine how it can be for a child.

It is very important that children and teenagers do ask for help when they are experiencing mental health issues. The CDC estimates 1in 5 children need psychotherapy for a mental health issue. Furthermore, the CDC has stated that Suicide is an epidemic for children between the ages of 10 and 18 years old. Cutting, self-harming behaviors, are also now at an epidemic rate in children. Most teenagers I work with, as a psychotherapist, have had suicidal thoughts and have cut before starting therapy with me. They also tell me about many of their friends who are feeling suicidal and cutting. According to the CDC, the Suicide rate and the number of teenagers engaging in self-harming behaviors has been increasing every year for the past decade.

While the need for teenagers needing psychotherapy is increasing, the reluctance to attend psychotherapy is increasing. Most teenagers I see for psychotherapy are afraid that their friends would stop being their friends if they knew they were going to therapy. They are afraid it makes them crazy and nothing will help because they are weak. They blame themselves for the feelings they are having. They are shocked when I explain that they are not weak and it is not their fault.

We need to change this stigma associated with mental health. Mental health should be treated the same way a physical health because they are the same. Clinical depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. If some one is diabetic, do we call them crazy or weak because their pancreas is not producing the correct level of insulin? No we do not. Therefore, when we have numerous research studies which show a link between physical health and mental health, why do we continue to view mental health so negatively? By doing so we are causing a number of teenage deaths. Suicide use to be the third leading cause of death for teenagers, however now according to the CDC it is the second most common cause. Many teens also die every year from eating disorders. Eating disorders occur in both girls and boys despite the belief girls only have eating disorders. Bullying is a severe problem and many teenagers are opting to commit suicide rather than discuss the pain and torture they are experiencing due to being bullied. This does not make sense that teenagers should be dying because the teen or their family are embarrassed to seek treatment.

I was researching this subject and found a video by the Anna Freud Institute. It is called, “We all have mental health.” It is a short video directed at teenagers and middle school students. It discusses the issue in a very relaxed manner and provides teenagers with options for how they can talk about their own feelings. I encourage parents, teachers and anyone who deals with children to watch this video. You may want to watch it with your teen and begin a discussion about feelings. The link to the video is https://youtu.be/DxIDKZHW3-E.

We need to start to change the negative stigma associated with mental health. Besides causing the deaths of teenagers, this stigma effects an entire family. A death impacts everyone in a family. Not being able to talk openly about a death because it was related to a mental health issue, creates more problems for the survivors. Nothing will change until we start to approach mental health differently. I also encourage you to look at the foundation started by Prince William and Henry, Heads Together. It provides a number of ways we can start to change the negative stigma associated with mental health and save lives.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience working with teenagers and children. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

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A Man Not Ashamed to Admit He Has Anxiety

A Man Not Ashamed to Admit He Has Anxiety

In our society people do not discuss mental health and it is something people feel embarrassed about. They also feel shame if they have mental health issues or if they go to a psychotherapist. However, our lives have become very complex and difficult, especially for children and teenagers. Besides coping with everyday life issues, we now face mass shootings and killings on a regular basis. Technology is advancing very quickly and the way we do things is changing very quickly too. As soon as we learn one thing, there is a new way to do the task that we need to learn. This makes our lives stressful and creates anxiety.

While we have this negative stigma about mental health, teenagers worry about it a great deal. Especially since 1 out of 5 teenagers deal with mental health issue. As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers, I see a large number of teens for panic attacks especially boys. I believe teenage boys are more prone to anxiety attacks because of the stereotype that boys don’t cry and they see emotions as weak. However, in our society men do cry and have emotional problems. Emotions are not a sign of weakness for men and boys. The documentary, “The Mask You Live In,” address this issue that men and boys face. I recently read an article by the basketball player, Kevin Love, which addresses this issue and explains how it impacts men and boys. I have included what he wrote so you can understand what men and boys face in our society.

On November 5th, right after halftime against the Hawks, I had a panic attack.

It came out of nowhere. I’d never had one before. I didn’t even know if they were real. But it was real — as real as a broken hand or a sprained ankle. Since that day, almost everything about the way I think about my mental health has changed.

 

“I DID ONE SEEMINGLY LITTLE THING THAT TURNED OUT TO BE A BIG THING.”

Kevin Love discusses his decision to seek help after suffering from a panic attack. (0:54)

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I’ve never been comfortable sharing much about myself. I turned 29 in September and for pretty much 29 years of my life I have been protective about anything and everything in my inner life. I was comfortable talking about basketball — but that came natural. It was much harder to share personal stuff, and looking back now I know I could have really benefited from having someone to talk to over the years. But I didn’t share — not to my family, not to my best friends, not in public. Today, I’ve realized I need to change that. I want to share some of my thoughts about my panic attack and what’s happened since. If you’re suffering silently like I was, then you know how it can feel like nobody really gets it. Partly, I want to do it for me, but mostly, I want to do it because people don’t talk about mental health enough. And men and boys are probably the farthest behind.

I know it from experience. Growing up, you figure out really quickly how a boy is supposed to act. You learn what it takes to “be a man.” It’s like a playbook: Be strong. Don’t talk about your feelings. Get through it on your own. So for 29 years of my life, I followed that playbook. And look, I’m probably not telling you anything new here. These values about men and toughness are so ordinary that they’re everywhere … and invisible at the same time, surrounding us like air or water. They’re a lot like depression or anxiety in that way.

So for 29 years, I thought about mental health as someone else’s problem. Sure, I knew on some level that some people benefited from asking for help or opening up. I just never thought it was for me. To me, it was form of weakness that could derail my success in sports or make me seem weird or different.

PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN PETERSEN/GETTY IMAGES

Then came the panic attack.

It happened during a game.

It was November 5th, two months and three days after I turned 29. We were at home against the Hawks — 10th game of the season. A perfect storm of things was about to collide. I was stressed about issues I’d been having with my family. I wasn’t sleeping well. On the court, I think the expectations for the season, combined with our 4–5 start, were weighing on me.

I knew something was wrong almost right after tip-off.

I was winded within the first few possessions. That was strange. And my game was just off. I played 15 minutes of the first half and made one basket and two free throws.

After halftime, it all hit the fan. Coach Lue called a timeout in the third quarter. When I got to the bench, I felt my heart racing faster than usual. Then I was having trouble catching my breath. It’s hard to describe, but everything was spinning, like my brain was trying to climb out of my head. The air felt thick and heavy. My mouth was like chalk. I remember our assistant coach yelling something about a defensive set. I nodded, but I didn’t hear much of what he said. By that point, I was freaking out. When I got up to walk out of the huddle, I knew I couldn’t reenter the game — like, literally couldn’t do it physically.

Coach Lue came up to me. I think he could sense something was wrong. I blurted something like, “I’ll be right back,” and I ran back to the locker room. I was running from room to room, like I was looking for something I couldn’t find. Really I was just hoping my heart would stop racing. It was like my body was trying to say to me, You’re about to die. I ended up on the floor in the training room, lying on my back, trying to get enough air to breathe.

The next part was a blur. Someone from the Cavs accompanied me to the Cleveland Clinic. They ran a bunch of tests. Everything seemed to check out, which was a relief. But I remember leaving the hospital thinking, Wait … then what the hell just happened?

PHOTO BY JED JACOBSOHN/THE PLAYERS’ TRIBUNE

I was back for our next game against the Bucks two days later. We won, and I had 32. I remember how relieved I was to be back on the court and feeling more like myself. But I distinctly remember being more relieved than anything that nobody had found out why I had left the game against Atlanta. A few people in the organization knew, sure, but most people didn’t and no one had written about it.

A few more days passed. Things were going great on the court, but something was weighing on me.

Why was I so concerned with people finding out?

It was a wake-up call, that moment. I’d thought the hardest part was over after I had the panic attack. It was the opposite. Now I was left wondering why it happened — and why I didn’t want to talk about it.

Call it a stigma or call it fear or insecurity — you can call it a number of things — but what I was worried about wasn’t just my own inner struggles but how difficult it was to talk about them. I didn’t want people to perceive me as somehow less reliable as a teammate, and it all went back to the playbook I’d learned growing up.

This was new territory for me, and it was pretty confusing. But I was certain about one thing: I couldn’t bury what had happened and try to move forward. As much as part of me wanted to, I couldn’t allow myself to dismiss the panic attack and everything underneath it. I didn’t want to have to deal with everything sometime in the future, when it might be worse. I knew that much.

So I did one seemingly little thing that turned out to be a big thing. The Cavs helped me find a therapist, and I set up an appointment. I gotta stop right here and just say: I’m the last person who’d have thought I’d be seeing a therapist. I remember when I was two or three years into the league, a friend asked me why NBA players didn’t see therapists. I scoffed at the idea. No way any of us is gonna talk to someone. I was 20 or 21 years old, and I’d grown up around basketball. And on basketball teams? Nobody talked about what they were struggling with on the inside. I remember thinking, What are my problems? I’m healthy. I play basketball for a living. What do I have to worry about? I’d never heard of any pro athlete talking about mental health, and I didn’t want to be the only one. I didn’t want to look weak. Honestly, I just didn’t think I needed it. It’s like the playbook said — figure it out on your own, like everyone else around me always had.

PHOTO BY JEFF HAYNES/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

But it’s kind of strange when you think about it. In the NBA, you have trained professionals to fine-tune your life in so many areas. Coaches, trainers and nutritionists have had a presence in my life for years. But none of those people could help me in the way I needed when I was lying on the floor struggling to breathe.

Still, I went to my first appointment with the therapist with some skepticism. I had one foot out the door. But he surprised me. For one thing, basketball wasn’t the main focus. He had a sense that the NBA wasn’t the main reason I was there that day, which turned out to be refreshing. Instead, we talked about a range of non-basketball things, and I realized how many issues come from places that you may not realize until you really look into them. I think it’s easy to assume we know ourselves, but once you peel back the layers it’s amazing how much there is to still discover.

 

A message from Kevin Love’s Grandma

 

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KEVIN.”

Kevin’s grandmother records a greeting for his 25th birthday in 2013. (0:33)

Since then, we’ve met up whenever I was back in town, probably a few times each month. One of the biggest breakthroughs happened one day in December when we got to talking about my Grandma Carol. She was the pillar of our family. Growing up, she lived with us, and in a lot of ways she was like another parent to me and my brother and sister. She was the woman who had a shrine to each of her grandkids in her room — pictures, awards, letters pinned up on the wall. And she was someone with simple values that I admired. It was funny, I once gave her a random pair of new Nikes, and she was so blown away that she called me to say thank you a handful of times over the year that followed.

When I made the NBA, she was getting older, and I didn’t see her as often as I used to. During my sixth year with the T-Wolves, Grandma Carol made plans to visit me in Minnesota for Thanksgiving. Then right before the trip, she was hospitalized for an issue with her arteries. She had to cancel her trip. Then her condition got worse quickly, and she fell into a coma. A few days later, she was gone.

I was devastated for a long time. But I hadn’t really ever talked about it. Telling a stranger about my grandma made me see how much pain it was still causing me. Digging into it, I realized that what hurt most was not being able to say a proper goodbye. I’d never had a chance to really grieve, and I felt terrible that I hadn’t been in better touch with her in her last years. But I had buried those emotions since her passing and said to myself, I have to focus on basketball. I’ll deal with it later. Be a man.

The reason I’m telling you about my grandma isn’t really even about her. I still miss her a ton and I’m probably still grieving in a way, but I wanted to share that story because of how eye-opening it was to talk about it. In the short time I’ve been meeting with the therapist, I’ve seen the power of saying things out loud in a setting like that. And it’s not some magical process. It’s terrifying and awkward and hard, at least in my experience so far. I know you don’t just get rid of problems by talking about them, but I’ve learned that over time maybe you can better understand them and make them more manageable. Look, I’m not saying, Everyone go see a therapist. The biggest lesson for me since November wasn’t about a therapist — it was about confronting the fact that I needed help.

PHOTO BY BRANDON DILL/AP IMAGES

One of the reasons I wanted to write this comes from reading DeMar’s comments last week about depression. I’ve played against DeMar for years, but I never could’ve guessed that he was struggling with anything. It really makes you think about how we are all walking around with experiences and struggles — all kinds of things — and we sometimes think we’re the only ones going through them. The reality is that we probably have a lot in common with what our friends and colleagues and neighbors are dealing with. So I’m not saying everyone should share all their deepest secrets — not everything should be public and it’s every person’s choice. But creating a better environment for talking about mental health … that’s where we need to get to.

Because just by sharing what he shared, DeMar probably helped some people — and maybe a lot more people than we know — feel like they aren’t crazy or weird to be struggling with depression. His comments helped take some power away from that stigma, and I think that’s where the hope is.

I want to make it clear that I don’t have things figured out about all of this. I’m just starting to do the hard work of getting to know myself. For 29 years, I avoided that. Now, I’m trying to be truthful with myself. I’m trying to be good to the people in my life. I’m trying to face the uncomfortable stuff in life while also enjoying, and being grateful for, the good stuff. I’m trying to embrace it all, the good, bad and ugly.

I want to end with something I’m trying to remind myself about these days: Everyone is going through something that we can’t see.

I want to write that again: Everyone is going through something that we can’t see.

The thing is, because we can’t see it, we don’t know who’s going through what and we don’t know when and we don’t always know why. Mental health is an invisible thing, but it touches all of us at some point or another. It’s part of life. Like DeMar said, “You never know what that person is going through.”

Mental health isn’t just an athlete thing. What you do for a living doesn’t have to define who you are. This is an everyone thing. No matter what our circumstances, we’re all carrying around things that hurt — and they can hurt us if we keep them buried inside. Not talking about our inner lives robs us of really getting to know ourselves and robs us of the chance to reach out to others in need. So if you’re reading this and you’re having a hard time, no matter how big or small it seems to you, I want to remind you that you’re not weird or different for sharing what you’re going through.

Just the opposite. It could be the most important thing you do. It was for me.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience treating teenagers and children. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Middle School in the 21st Century

Middle School in the 21st Century

As a psychotherapist who treats adolescents who are in high school, I often hear parents concerns about what teens face in high school. For example, many parents worry about drugs and alcohol. There are numerous other issues too. The parents do need to be concerned because these are issues in high school. If they have a child in middle school too and I mention they need to address theses issues with their child in middle school, many parents look surprised.

I hear parents say every day that they don’t need to worry about drugs or alcohol with their child in middle school because their child is too young for that right now. Well the reality is that Middle School Students are drinking, using drugs and having sex. Many parents are unaware of what is happening in Middle Schools these days. Drugs and alcohol are just the tip of the iceberg. Children that are in the age group of middle school are now involved numerous dangerous activities such as selling drugs.

To begin with, most campuses are better pharmacies than your pharmacy. I have had middle school kids say they can get Vicodin, Concerta, Ecstasy and of course weed and alcohol on their school campus. Some kids use at school and some use after school and on the weekends. More and more middle school kids are deciding to experiment with drugs and alcohol due to the pressure to feel successful as a teenager and so they fit in with friends.

Also many middle school kids are sexually active, but they don’t think they are sexually active. They think because they are not engaging in intercourse and they are engaging in oral sex that it doesn’t count. The kids say they are just “messing around” with each other and do not consider this sex. They also have no idea about sexually transmitted diseases or how to protect themselves for STDs or getting pregnant. However, the number of middle school kids engaging in oral sex and intercourse has increased significantly over the last few years. The rate is now high enough that some middle schools, such as the San Francisco School District, are providing condoms to middle school kids. Yes, Middle Schools are giving condoms to children in the sixth grade. These kids are only 11 years old.

Another common issue in middle school is bullying. However, we are not just talking about one kid teasing another kid at school anymore. Today there is for a group of kids teasing one kid and it is not just at school. Now kids are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and texting by cellphone to tease and harass other kids. And as many of you may recall there have been a number of kids who have committed suicide due to the teasing at school. I recently wrote an article about a middle school girl who committed suicide and in her obituary she left a note to the other students just asking them to be nice to each other. Another issue with teasing, is that a number of middle school students have been arrested for photos they text and for harassment. Besides teasing, texting a nude photo of a student in middle school means the middle school child violated child pornography laws. Something many parents and students are not aware of is that when a child texts a nude photo of a middle school student, who is under 18 years old, it violates child pornography laws and the child who texts it and received it can both be arrested.

Also many kids in middle school, especially boys, don’t feel safe and are afraid of someone trying to beat them up before or afraid school. They say they have to fight because other kids are recording it and posting it on YouTube. Boys are bragging about their fights on YouTube and comparing how many people have watched their fight with their friend’s fight. Therefore, boys feel they must fight, otherwise if they don’t fight the other kids will think they are a “whimp” so they have to fight. Due to this fear many middle school students carry knives, metal pipes, guns or anything they can think of to protect themselves. This is very sad that kids have to live in fear for their lives and safety at school. Also parents and students don’t realize, if a student is caught with any of these items on campus they can be removed from their entire school district and required to go to continuation school. In addition, the school can have the student arrested. Due to terrorist activities, schools take anyone possessing items that can severely hurt someone very seriously.

These are just a few of the issues that are occurring at all middle schools and they are very serious. Your child is not going to come to you to ask about these issues or tell you about them because they feel embarrassed and they are afraid of getting in to trouble. So parents even though you may feel embarrassed or awkward discussing these issues with your 11 year-old child, please do so. If you notice anything about your child’s behavior that seems different to you and you feel a sense of concern, ask your child about what is happening at school and with friends. Mention they are getting older so are the issues in their lives and mention drinking, sex or being teased and ask if they need to talk about it. You may be saving their lives because they are dealing with things they know nothing about and these things can kill or have life long effects.

Here is a YouTube video that might help:

Dr Michael Rubino is an expert dealing with adolescents and adolescent issues. He has over 20 years experience treating adolescents. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s practice check his website http://www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3.

Teenagers and Their High School Prom

Teenagers and Their High School Prom

Yes it is that time of year again — Prom Season. Along with the prom come the concerns of who will I go with? What will I wear? How much can I spend on a dress? And a number of other issues. Hopefully, you and your teen have already discussed the issues around dating and have agreements regarding dating. If not, Prom may be a harder issue because now you have to deal with issues regarding dating and Prom.

As a parent, the first thing to do is to contact your teen’s High School and see what rules and guidelines the school has already established. Many High Schools have rules regarding who can attend, such as only students of that high school can attend, a dress code and some high schools require you to inform them if you are going and your date’s name and the telephone numbers for both set of parents. They do this so if your teen fails to arrive by the designated time or if there are any problems at the Prom, they know who to call.

Another reason to contact the school is to find out where the Prom is being held. Due to the number deaths associated with alcohol or drug use, a number of high schools have decide to have the entire Prom on the school campus. They serve dinner and have the dance at the school. Once you have the details then it is time to discuss with your teen what your expectations are regarding the Prom. This is also the time where you will set the rules for the Prom and make your agreements with your teen.

Assuming the Prom is not being held at the campus and instead being held at a Hotel, there are a few items to discuss. The first issue is price. Most teens want to go to an expensive dinner, hire a limo for the night and for the girls there is the Prom dress. I have seen teens spend over $2,000 on their Prom dresses. A limo for the night can cost $2000 and dinner can cost $350. If you have this money and are willing to indulge your teen then there is no problem. However, most parents don’t have this extra money so you need to agree on a budget. For example, a limo is not a necessity for the Prom. As a parent you may feel safer with a limo because your teen is not driving. Also there is a new law and limos cannot carry liquor when they are driving for Proms and they must card anyone consuming alcohol in the limo. You can bring the price down by having your teen split the cost of the car with 2 to 3 other couples. However, you will want to talk to the parents of your teen’s date and any friends they are going with to ensure all the parents agree.

Another option is letting your teenager pay for part of their prom. There is nothing wrong with expecting them to contribute to the cost of their prom. In fact, it is a good way to educate them about money. If they are having to spend their own money, they may choose some cheaper options. to the . This is a good way to start teaching your teen about managing money. If they are using their own money, they may choose some less expensive options. You can have your teen purchase the prom tickets, pay for the dinner, girls can pay for part of their dress and boys can pay to rent a tuxedo and for a corsage for their date. As a parent you may want to help with the limo, if they are using one, and the Prom pictures. Some teenagers may need some help budgeting money and parents can help teens with figuring out ways to budget and less expensive options for some items. For example, parents can suggest a very nice restaurant that is not very expensive.

If you have a daughter you need to negotiate the cost of the dress or consider renting a dress. In my opinion she does not need to spend $500 on a dress or more to look good. The same rule goes for her hair. She does not need to spend $300 on styling her hair for one night. She can rent a dress and there are beauticians who do not charge as much but still do an excellent job.

You also need to talk with your teen regarding your expectations about consuming alcohol, using drugs and sexual activity on Prom night. Many teens plan After Parties for their Proms. Quite often at the After Parties is where the drinking, drug use or sexual activity occurs. This is another reason why it is important to know who your teen will be going with to the Prom and their parents. You should never allow your teen to go to an After Party where there is no adult supervision. If the party is at a friend’s house with adult supervision and you have spoken with the adult, there should be no problem. If your teen wants to rent a hotel room so their date and their friends can have a party, this is a huge problem and should not be allowed. There are too many incidents where teens overdose, drink to the point of alcohol poisoning, get pregnant or trash the hotel room. Most hotels will not rent a room to someone under 18, but many teens find away around this rule using friends or cousins who are 18 years or older. Also some parents will rent the room for their teen because they want to be viewed as the nice parent. Remember being a parent is not a popularity contest and some times you need to make an unpopular decision because that is what is best for your teenager. This is also a reason why you would want to talk to the parents of the friends your teenager is going to the Prom with. You may want to ask if any of the parents agreed to rent a hotel room.

Another issue to discuss is curfew. Yes it is their Prom and you want them to have a good time, but there is no reason why they need to stay out the entire night or for the entire weekend. If there is adult supervision the entire time it may work. If there is not adult supervision it is a recipe for disaster. Yes some parents plan a breakfast for the morning after the prom. They may serve breakfast at 4 am. If there are plans such as these, your teen could simply text you at some point that everything is going fine. No one needs to know that they checked in with you.

One other issue you need to be prepared for is if your teen does not have a date for the Prom. This can be devastating to a teenager. If this occurs reassure them that it means nothing about them as a person and allow them to express their feelings. Many schools are realizing how much pressure having a date is placing on teenagers and some teens are not ready to date in High School. Therefore, a number of High Schools have changed policies regarding the Prom. Many schools allow teens to make a choice. If they want to take a date they can or if they do not want to take a date and just go with friends that is fine. So if your teen does not have a date and the school does not require one explain not everyone is ready to date in High School and there is nothing wrong with them. Reinforcing their self-esteem can be very important because as a teen many teenager’s self-esteem are fragile and they need your support.

Finally, you need to have a discussion with your teen regarding acting responsibly and to have self-respect. The Prom is a major event and it is another step that your teen is taking into the adult world. They need to remember if they want to act like adults, they have to be willing to accept being treated like an adult. So if they violate the rules that their school has established for the Prom, they may be giving up their right to graduate with their class. The Prom should be a happy event that you and your teen both remember for a long time. If you discuss the issues before the Prom and come to agreements that you both accept then it should be a safe, happy event for all. Good luck!

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with teenagers, their parents and high schools. For more information on his work visit his website http://www.rubinocounseling.com, his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Ways for Parents to Cope with School IEP Meetings

Ways for Parents to Cope with School IEP Meetings

The school year is coming to a close soon. Therefore, students with IEPs or 504 plans must have their yearly review deciding if a child still qualifies for an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) or a 504 plan. Also for parents who requested their child be evaluated for an IEP, they will soon be having their initial IEP meeting to determine if the child qualifies for an IEP. I have posted this article before, but it appears I need to post it again. Once again, I have been hearing from parents all over the country who are afraid about lies they are hearing from 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. Additionally, many parents do not know what their child is legally entitled to and the school districts take advantage of this fact.

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. They do not have an IEP because they are not intelligent. They have an IEP 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 as an adult either. 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 your child ever had an IEP unless your child volunteers the information when they apply for college or a job. 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 them 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. However, an IEP is a legal agreement and the laws governing IEPs are the same in every state in the United States. Also if a school doesn’t comply with an IEP, you have a number of options including legal options.

Also parents please do not pay to have your child psychologically tested or undergo any educational testing by a private mental health clinician. Legally, the school district does not have to accept these tests results. The school has the right to do all testing first. If you disagree with the school’s tests results, you can contest the results and request that your child be re-evaluated by an independent clinician. If you request an independent evaluation, you can select who does the testing and the school district must pay for the independent evaluation not you.

The only testing schools currently are not doing are assessments for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Too many children were being diagnosed with ADHD and now these assessments need to be done by a mental health clinician in private practice. These evaluations you do have to pay for.

Another issue I am receiving a large number of emails about is that the school is not doing anything. Parents are saying they are hearing from the school that their child is distracted in the classroom and not doing well on tests or homework. However, the school is not doing anything. If you feel your child needs to be assessed, you need to submit a written letter requesting the evaluations to the principal. Requesting it verbally does nothing. Legally you must submit a written letter to the school principal in order to start the IEP process.

Another suggestion, parents before you panic or feel guilty about not signing that you agree with the assessments by the school because the school is pressuring you to accept their recommendations, 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 the agreement and seek a second opinion. You are the one in charge not the school. 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 if you do not sign right away, you are a cautious parent. If you do not agree with the proposed IEP plan, you can sign that you disagree and do not accept the proposed plan. There is a space on the form for you to do so. If you reject the plan, you will not ruin your child’s education. If you reject the plan, it simply means the school district needs to do more work to develop an acceptable plan. However, I have seen many school districts doing what is best for them financially not what is best for your child and making parents feel guilty. There is no need to feel guilty if you do not accept, the first option presented. Think about it when you are selling or buying a house, you do not automatically accept the first offer and you do not feel guilty.

If parents are divorced, you face some additional challenges especially if you are having difficulties co-parenting with your ex-spouse. Some districts have called the parent who is more willing to sign and gets them to agree to sign and close out the IEP. I have also heard stories where the district encourages the arguing between the parents to get the parents to drop the process or for one to become so angry the parent signs the IEP to irritate the other parents. Yes it sounds unbelievable, but I have seen it happen many times.

I encourage any parent dealing with the IEP process or a 504 plan to take things slow. Ask all the questions you need and seek a second opinion if you feel you need one. You do not have to sign any documentation right away. Remember, you can sign that you do not agree and need more time. School districts are going to push you to sign right away, but legally you have every right to take some time and consider their proposal. Please do not be afraid to assert your rights. You are doing what best for your child’s education and future by taking time to review everything.

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

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist and has worked with children and families for over 20 years. He also worked as an Intern at AB3632 for 2 years. AB3632 is a California program that provides counseling services for children in Special Education. They also participate in IEPs on a regular basis. Dr. Rubino has been an IEP Advocate for over 20 years. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website http://www.rcs-ca.com or http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or http://www.Lucascenter.org.

Understanding ADHD in School Children

Understanding ADHD in School Children

It is now the second semester of the school year and many teachers may be telling parents that their children are having problems concentrating. Also some parents have been struggling with getting their child to do homework. The school or family members may be suggesting to parents that the child has ADHD and needs medication. Many parents are not sure about the diagnosis and they are concerned about their child taking ADHD medication. I hear this very often from parents and do many assessments on children to determine if a child has ADHD. Yes ADHD is a really disorder, but too many teachers and schools rush to the conclusion that a child has ADHD and needs medication.

According to statistics by the American Psychological Association, five percent of children in the United States have ADHD. It is also more common in males and it does tend to run in families. However, not every child who has ADHD requires medication. Many children can be treated with psychotherapy and behavior modification. Therefore, if your child is diagnosed with ADHD do not rush to medicate your child. There are different subtypes of ADHD and different severities of the diagnosis.

If you child does have ADHD, they are entitled to accommodations such as extra time taking a test. This would be covered by a 504 plan. However, if your child has severe ADHD and needs resource assistance too, they are entitled to an Individual Educational Plan (IEP). Many schools may tell parents ADHD does not qualify for an IEP. This is not true. The severity of the ADHD determines if a child needs an IEP. They would qualify under the categories of Emotional Disturbance or Other Health Impairments.

If you feel your child may have ADHD or their school suggests the idea, make sure you have your child appropriately assessed by a professional who specializes in ADHD. In the past schools would often diagnosis children with ADHD. Schools are no longer supposed to make this diagnosis. If they feel a child might have ADHD, they are supposed to have your child evaluated. Many parents take their child to their pediatrician, however, many pediatricians are not trained in diagnosing ADHD. I would suggest having your child evaluated by a mental health clinician trained in working with children and in assessing for ADHD.

As I stated above, if you are going to have your child evaluated for ADHD, make sure you take your child to a mental health clinician who specializes in children and in doing assessments. The assessment for ADHD is not very difficult and an appropriate evaluation by an appropriate mental health clinician should cost around $250 depending on where you live. I have seen some parents who have spent thousands of dollars getting CT scans, MRIs and PET scans. You do not need an expensive scan of your child’s brian to diagnosis ADHD.

The DSM V, the diagnostic manual that mental health clinicians use, list the criteria needed for the diagnosis. I am including a link to the Center for Disease Control which list the criteria for the diagnosis and other information about ADHD, http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html. Typically the diagnosis can be made by a clinician interviewing the parents, having a play session or two with the child and observing the child at school or consulting with the teachers. However, remember if you are going to have your child evaluated for ADHD, you want a mental health clinician who specializes in treating children and assessing children for ADHD. Your child’s pedestrian should be able to refer you to someone or if you call your insurance they will probably have referrals.

Before you rush to have your child assessed, remember some basic facts. Most children between the ages of two to five are very active. They also have very short attention spans. Sometimes you need to give a child some time to mature especially if you have a boy. Remember boys mature slower than girls and tend to be more active than girls. It is important to keep these facts in mind when you are wondering if your child has ADHD.

Now if you child is more hyperactive than other kids his age or his attention span is shorter than most kids his age, there might be an issue. Also if there is a strong family history of ADHD in the family such as his father had ADHD as a child and paternal and maternal uncles all had ADHD as children, there might be an issue. Also if your child was born premature or there were complications during the pregnancy or child birth, there might be an issue. Premature babies or babies with a difficult pregnancy or birth are more likely to have ADHD and learning disabilities.

Bottom line, if someone suggests that your child has ADHD don’t rush to the pedestrian seeking medication. Compare your child’s behavior to other children and consider the risk factors. If your child doesn’t have many risk factors for ADHD maybe wait six months and reassess the situation. The most important thing to remember is if you decide to have your child assessed for ADHD, make sure you go to a mental health clinician who specializes in children and ADHD. You want a mental health clinician who specializes in treating children with ADHD and assessing children for ADHD. Also remember you do not need any expensive scans like a CT scan. There are other treatment options besides medication, so do not rush to medicate your child either. Consider all the treatment options.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in treating children and assessing children. He has over 20 years experience treating and assessing children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work visit his websites at http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3