Tuesday, September 3, 2013

How Much Do You Disclose to the School about your Child’s Disorder?

It’s that time of year again where we have our 504 meeting with the school to discuss all modifications for my oldest son and more importantly, when I try to educate my son’s teachers about his disorder so we can best support him in school. One tool I used last year, that I plan on using again is the brochure from The Balanced Mind website called Educating the Child with Bipolar Disorder.

Here is a link to it:
http://www.thebalancedmind.org/sites/default/files/edbrochure.pdf

But even with this resource, I’m always wondering about how much I should share. It’s a very vulnerable position to be in and it’s important to disclose enough to get the support we need, while at the same time, trying to protect his privacy.

Last year I tried to be vague and things didn’t go so well. We had a lot of problems with the math teacher. But after an emergency 504 meeting later into the school year I got a little more real and revealed more details about my son’s disorder and how it related to his challenges at that time, particularly his depression. After that meeting we saw a major improvement with the math teacher’s attitude toward our son. He was more attentive and helpful and seemed to be on board with the plan.

But here I am again, a new school year, with a new principal (yay!) and all new teachers and I find myself asking, how much do I disclose?

So I thought I would toss that question out to you, I along with a few other parents that are reading this blog would love to know how you navigate this line of disclosure. Please tell us, how much do you share with your school?

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12 comments:

  1. I would lean towards proactive disclosure -- both my baby sister and I have a family history of mental illness severe enough to have necessitated psychiatrists, meds and the odd in patient stay starting in elementary school. Folks were surprisingly understanding at out smallish elementary school (and, well, our mum committed suicide not long after my sis started kindergarten, so it wasn't like hiding it was an option).

    What really helped immensely was (eventually) attending a huge high school -- as not every single person knew our family history, 1800+ kids was a sufficient volume to ensure pretty much every kid would hit it off at least a few other kids AND my sis wasn't the only kid in and out if the (amazing, incredible, absolutely-saved-her-life) adolescent psych unit at Sick Kids five or six times in high school. Heck, that in and of itself was worth it. Proactive disclosure served both of us well.

    FWIW, my sis and I are both happily married, with kids and college degrees in large part due to timely and appropriate treatment. When I was a sophomore in college and incredibly embarrassed about having landed myself a week-long in-patient hospital stay, I was flabbergasted at the number of family friends (my parents friends from college, mostly, who'd known me since I was a baby) who called and told me they'd had a similar interlude. So did, ummmm, half of my closest girlfriends. It is really, really common -- stunningly common, upper middle class girl rite of passage common, and pretty much everybody (eventually) comes out okay on the other side. Even my professors were very understanding and happily let me write finals as take-home tests as I was too spooked to write them in a huge lecture hall.

    The sooner the stigma of mental illness is done away with the better. I still take medication daily, as does my sister. She is a social worker, I work for the federal government and hold a TS clearance (having fully disclosed my medical history; I've been so stable for so long that it's a non-issue).

    All the best to your boy as he starts school this year!

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    1. I’m so happy to hear that your decision to proactively disclose was a success!

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  2. My approach has been full disclosure with the school as I want them to be part of our team. We have been very blessed with professional and loving teachers and administrators. It is scary because we have a small district -- only about 1,000 students K-12, but has helped to get our son the help he needs.

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    1. I agree with your point that ”they” are part of the team. We can't do this on our own!

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  3. I struggle with this when I sign her up for sports camps and teams. I don't want them to make assumptions and judge her without knowing her. Very hard.

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    1. Ahh, that is the tough part, not wanting them to judge or make assumptions. It is really hard. I like to let the teachers meet my son first, at least spend a week or two with him before I disclose, it helps to let them form their own opinions of him before they hear about his disorder.

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  4. I am still in a very "honeymoon" place with my daughter. She is only 9 and is still able to completely hold herself together, which can cause all sorts of other issues. As I sat and thought about who I always ask myself the question "why". Why am I telling this person? Is it for me or for my child. Last year when we started medication I felt that I needed to tell the teacher, because she was with her the most. Yes she did not have any of the same outbursts, however I needed her to see the side effects, know that if my daughter complained there was a real chance it was something. My daughter attends a charter school, which I think is what helps her keep it more together. Her teacher moved up with her. When I first told her, the teacher took 15 minutes of convincing that yes I was talking about that same child who you get the very best from (darn it).

    For me the only person I have told is the teacher. She is wonderful and I am able to communicate with just her about changes of meds, outbursts, need for water in the classroom. I know this could/most likely change as my daughter gets older. Again I will think of that, Why am I telling them this, is it for me or for her. Do they really need to know all the tantrums, or more importantly what happens during, what can we do together to help etc.

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    1. That's a really smart process to consider, I will admit there was a time I was guilty of wanting to explain the behavior because I didn't want people to think it was my parenting that was causing his actions.

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  5. I struggle with this too, but I tend to err on the side of more information is better. Not telling the teachers isn't going to make it go away. I do like to let the teachers get to know him as himself before I do the disclosure. This is our first year in middle school with multiple teachers--so far I've disclosed on an as needed basis. When an issue arrises I explain he has a 504 plan, and some of the strategies I use to address the particular issue.

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    1. That seems to be where I am at. I am disclosing more info and it seems to be working so far. Good luck with middle school!

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  6. My daughter started a public middle school last year. She's in 7th grade now and attends all gen ed classes. All her teachers have a copy of her IEP and communicate with her spec ed teacher on a weekly basis.

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    1. That sounds great! We are working on this now.

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