Many of the answers to our most frequently asked questions can be found here — categorized for your convenience. For diagnosis-specific assistance, please request one of our resource packets, or contact us if you cannot find an answer you need.
Important Note: All information herein is provided for general reference purposes only. It does not constitute medical or other professional advice and should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your child or adolescent by a physician. Only a qualified, licensed physician can determine the individual treatment that is appropriate for your particular circumstances. All decisions about clinical care should be made in consultation with a physician.
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A. Talk to your child’s doctor. Ask questions and find out everything you can about the behavior or symptoms that worry you. Every child is different and even normal development varies from child to child. Sensory processing, language, and motor skills are developing during early childhood, as well as the ability to relate to parents and to socialize with caregivers and other children. If your child is in daycare or preschool, ask the caretaker or teacher if your child has been showing any worrisome changes in behavior, and discuss this with your child’s doctor.
A. If you suspect your child may have behavioral or emotional problems, it is important to seek help and an evaluation from your doctor or a mental health professional. Signs and symptoms of childhood and adolescent emotional problems may include:
A. First, consult your child’s doctor. Ask for a complete health examination of your child. Describe the behaviors that worry you. Ask whether your child needs further evaluation by a specialist in child behavioral problems. Such specialists may include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and behavioral therapists. Educators may also be needed to help your child.
A. Similar to adults, disorders are diagnosed by observing signs and symptoms. A skilled professional will consider these signs and symptoms in the context of the child’s developmental level, social and physical environment, and reports from parents and other caretakers or teachers, and an assessment will be made according to criteria established by experts. Very young children often cannot express their thoughts and feelings, which makes assigning a diagnosis a challenging task. The signs of a mental disorder in a young child may be quite different from those of an older child or an adult.
A. Sometimes, yes. But in other cases children need professional help. Problems that are severe, persistent, and that impact daily activities should be brought to the attention of the child’s doctor. Great care should be taken to help a child who is suffering because mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders can affect the way the child grows up.
A. Mental disorders with possible onset in childhood include: anxiety disorders; attention deficit and disruptive behavior disorders; autism and other pervasive developmental disorders; eating disorders (e.g. anorexia nervosa); mood disorders (e.g. major depression, bipolar disorder); schizophrenia; and tic disorders. Under some circumstances, bed-wetting and soiling may be symptoms of a mental disorder.
A. Psychotropic medications may be prescribed for young children with mental, behavioral, or emotional symptoms when the potential benefits of treatment outweigh the risks. Some problems are so severe and persistent that they would have serious negative consequences for the child if untreated, and psychosocial interventions may not always be effective by themselves. The safety and efficacy of most psychotropic medication have not yet been studied in children. As a parent, you will want to ask many questions and evaluate with your doctor the risks of starting and continuing your child on these medications. Learn everything you can about the medications prescribed for your child, including potential side effects. Learn which side effects are tolerable and which ones are threatening. In addition, learn and keep in mind the goals of a particular treatment (e.g. change in specific behavior). Combining multiple psychotropic medications should be avoided in very young children unless absolutely necessary.
A. Yes. Young children’s bodies handle medications differently that older individuals, and this has implications in dosage. The brains of young children are in a state of very rapid development, and animal studies have shown that the developing neurotransmitter systems can be very sensitive to medications. A great deal of research is still needed to determine the effects and benefits of medications in children of all ages. Yet it is important to remember that serious untreated mental disorders themselves negatively impact brain development.
A. When medication is used, it should not be the only strategy. There are other services that you may want to investigate for your child. Family support services, educational classes, behavior management techniques, family therapy, and other approaches should be considered. If medication is prescribed, it should be monitored and evaluated regularly.
A. When your child is prescribed a new medication, it is important to receive complete information about what the medication is for, what is does, and so on. Questions to ask before your child receives new medication may include:
A. The cost of mental health treatment can be high. It is important to know what your insurance mental health benefits are. You can contact the human resource department at your place of employment, or a customer service representative at your insurance company. Questions to ask may include:
A. Special education is specially designed instruction for children who have disabilities. This instruction is designed to meet a child’s unique needs and strengths. Special education instruction allows a child with a disability to meaningfully access their education. Special education is a service, not a place.
A. Special education can be provided for children ages 3 through 21. To qualify for special education services, a child must meet all of the three following criteria:
A. To qualify for special education services, a child must meet eligibility under:
A. Before a child can receive special education services, a comprehensive school evaluation must be done. This evaluation allows the school staff to gather data to determine if a child’s disability is negatively impacting their school performance.
A request for a school evaluation can come from the parent. This request should always be submitted in writing. For your convenience, Allies has provided a sample Request for Evaluation letter.
The evaluation must consider not only the child’s needs, but also the child’s strengths. Tests must be given in all areas of suspected disability. Some tests that may be given include:
Once the testing is complete the school team, parents, and child (if appropriate) will hold a meeting to determine if the child is eligible for special education.
A. An IEP (Individual Education Program) is a legal document that outlines the types of special education and related services for a qualifying child. The IEP is a written plan designed to meet the specific and unique needs of a child.
A. The IEP team includes the following:
A. An IEP includes a statement of the child’s present level of educational performance. This includes how the student’s disability disrupts learning, and how the disability affects participation in their education.
Other parts of the IEP include:
A. After receiving the information from the school evaluation and IEP, it is important for parents take time to review the IEP. Some questions to consider may include:
A. It is important to be prepared before any school meeting. Parents can feel empowered when they have their child’s information at their fingertips. An individualized student binder can contain their child’s testing and evaluations, strength sheet, report cards, school information, correspondence, and any information that is helpful to understand a child’s educational needs.
Further suggestions for meeting preparation:
A. Below are some tips for parents as they participate in an IEP meeting:
A. The school does keep educational and special education records on file. A parent can request copies of these school records in writing. Allies has provided a convenient Request for School Records letter, for your use.
Parents can also keep their own records of their child’s educational papers. Keeping records helps to track progress and potential problems. It can also keep records such as testing and correspondence in an easy to find location.
Some of the records parents should keep include:
A. First, address your concerns with the school IEP team, beginning with your child's teacher. Be specific about your concerns and how you would like them to be resolved. If you feel you do not get satisfactory responses at the school level, next go to the school district's special education director. The next level for intervention is at the Utah State Office of Education, with their special education department.
As a note, remember the school team, in particular, includes the professionals that work with your child. It is important to build and maintain a positive relationship with them so any serious concerns may be addressed at the school level. However, parents have the right to address their concerns at every level as they look for solutions and support.
A. Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. In a school setting, a Section 504 Plan makes sure a child is able to access the general education curriculum at the same level as non-disabled students.
A. To qualify for 504 accommodations a child must have a physical or mental impairment, be thought to have a physical or mental impairment, or generally be identified as having a physical or mental impairment. This impairment must substantially limit one or more major life activities, including:
A. An evaluation does not have to be completed for a child to receive a 504 Plan. However, it is best practice for the school to complete a comprehensive evaluation. If the child is found to be eligible, a 504 Plan is prepared, and accommodations and supports are put into place in their general education classroom. The data from the evaluation can provide direction as to the type of accommodations a child needs.
A. The assigned accommodations should support the child in accessing the general education curriculum. The accommodations do allow for some flexibility in services, including:
A. Parents are not legally mandated to be on their child’s 504 team. However, the school districts generally find parental inclusion to be best practice. The other members of the 504 team include:
A. You have the right to: