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print email Source: Editorial: Taking taboo out of mental illness
School's role in treating mental illness
January 28, 2013 | 08:02 AM

Okay, schools. As a matter of fact, for the bulk of the day, you have charge of the children who eventually harm other children. We are seeing lots of increased security measures in the past month, but gun control and locked doors are not enough. The 9-11 terrorists were armed only with boxcutters. What are you doing to address these tragedies before the locked door, several years earlier, when you have charge of the kid? Identifying and addressing bullying is a start. How about shoring up staff to provide on-site counselling, daily if needed, to help troubled and awkward kids cope? Require teachers to be trained in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as part of their continuing ed. Have trained professionals work directly with these students one on one for part of the day, teaching social skills on the spot, demonstrating how to get along with people, to understand and sympathize with people, to negotiate a sometimes tough, cruel world that doesn't make sense to a teen. Have a full time occupational therapist in school, to allow time to address children with sensory issues in addition to physical challenges. Provide a sensory room, equip it well, and direct its use for students who need it. Getting along with people is a life skill more important than math. School is where we learn our social skills as children. It should not be passive instruction left to chance, especially for those who are challenged in this area.
Schools, you are aware that ASD/ Aspergers is the highest funded student group, receiving twice the funding per student. Be accountable for the funding you receive. Actually spend all of the funds designated for kids with Aspergers and ASD on them, to prevent their anger and frustration from getting so high. Take the initiative and qualify students. The above services might be expensive, but you are already getting paid for it, every year, per student qualified as ASD. Stop telling the parents it is not your problem, or you don't have the funding, and spending the funds elsewhere. Take some responsibility. The lives you save may include your own, or those you love.
So here is my challenge to schools. Assume you now have a student that, absent intervention, will one day conclude that his best option in life is to harm people in a school setting. What are you going to do for that student right now, a few years before, to help prevent that from happening. Think hard about it, spend at least as much time on the project as you would your school safety plan. Then identify target students that might benefit, and do it.

RF
Barbara Shaw
Schuler Bauer
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