Allies with Families

Helpful Resources

Empowering you with quality information and techniques.

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.



For Military Families:

Link to Exceptional Family Member Program /Special Needs Page on Military One Source:
http://www.militaryonesource.mil/efmp

Hill AFB link to Hill’s Helping Hands Page:
http://www.hill.af.mil/library/integrateddeliverysystem/index.asp

Link to Utah National Guard Family Assistance Centers:
http://www.ut.ngb.army.mil/family/index.htm

Tri-West Healthcare Alliance Page
http://www.triwest.com/en/

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.

For a broad overview of our programs, watch our introductory video.

About Mental Health

Q. What should I do if I am concerned about mental, behavioral, or emotional symptoms in my young child?

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.

Q. How do I know if my child’s problems are serious?

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:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling sad
  • Mood swings
  • Troubling or disturbing thoughts
  • Withdrawal or isolation
  • School problems
  • Stealing or lying
  • Obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors
  • Excessive weight gain or loss
  • Trouble paying attention
  • Anxiety or frequent worries
  • Dangerous or self-destructive behavior
  • Use of drugs or alcohol

Q. Who should I consult to help my child?

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.

Q. How are mental disorders diagnosed in young children?

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.

Q. Won’t my child get better with time?

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.

Q. Which mental disorders are seen in children?

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.

Q. Are there situations in which it is advisable to use psychotropic medications in young children?

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.

Q. Does medication affect young children differently from older children or adults?

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.

Q. How should medication be included in an overall treatment plan?

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.

Q. What questions should I ask about my child’s medications?

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:

  • What is the name of the medication? Is it known by other names?
  • How will the medication help my child? How long before I see improvement? When will it work?
  • What are the side effects which may occur with this medication?
  • What is the recommended dosage? How often will the medication be taken?
  • Are there any laboratory tests (e.g. blood tests, heart tests, etc.) which need to be done before my child begins to take the medication? Will any tests need to be done while my child is taking the medication?
  • Will a child psychiatrist be monitoring my child’s medication and make changes when necessary? How often will progress be monitored, and by whom?
  • Are there any other medications or foods which my child should avoid while taking the medication?
  • How long will my child need to take this medication? How will the decision be made to stop the medication?
  • What is the cost of the medication (generic vs. brand name)?

Q. How can I find out if my insurance will pay for my child’s treatment?

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:

  • Do I need a referral from my child’s primary care doctor?
  • Is there a list of preferred treatment providers? What if I want to see a provider that is not on the list?
  • Is there a mental health deductible? Is this deductible different than my medical deductible?
  • Does my mental health benefit include hospitalization, outpatient visits, day treatment, or residential treatment programs?
  • Do I have a maximum limit of visits or treatment cost?
  • Does my plan exclude certain diagnoses or pre-existing conditions?

Mental Health and Education

Q. What is special education?

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.

Q. Who is eligible for special education?

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:

  • The child must have one of the identified disability categories, as defined by the Utah State Board of Education.
  • The disability must adversely affect the child’s educational performance.
  • The disability must affect the educational performance to such a degree that the child needs specialized instruction and related services.

Q. What are the identified disability categories for special education?

A. To qualify for special education services, a child must meet eligibility under:

  • Developmental disability
  • Hearing impairments including deafness
  • Speech or language impairments
  • Serious emotional disturbance
  • Orthopedic impairments
  • Autism
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Other health impairments
  • Specific learning disabilities
  • Deaf/blindness
  • Multiple disabilities
  • Intellectual disability

Q. How can the school determine if my child needs special education services?

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:

  • Motor
  • Vision
  • Academic
  • Adaptive
  • Vocational/Transition
  • Communication
  • Social/Behavioral
  • Observation/Interview
  • Psychomotor
  • Intellectual/Cognitive (such as I.Q. testing)
  • Hearing

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.

Q. What is an IEP (Individual Education Program)?

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.

Q. Who is on the IEP team?

A. The IEP team includes the following:

  • Parents
  • Regular education teacher of the child, if the child is or may be in the regular education environment
  • Special education teacher of the child
  • District representative
  • Someone to interpret evaluation results
  • Child (when appropriate)
  • Others with special knowledge or expertise

Q. What must be written in an IEP?

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 list of supports and services the child needs to be educated in the general education classroom using the general education curriculum.
  • IEP goals that identify what the school will try to teach the child, including long-range goals.
  • Specific special education services the child will receive to assist in learning.
  • How the child’s progress in school will be measured and reported and how parents will be regularly informed of their child’s progress.
  • Clear statements of when each special education service will begin, as well as how long, how often, and where each service will be given.
  • How much time, if any, the child will spend out of the general education classroom and away from students without disabilities.
  • A written behavior plan, if needed.

Q. How do I know the IEP will address my child’s needs?

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:

  • Are my child’s goals measurable?
  • Does my child participate in the general curriculum all or part of the day?
  • Does the IEP list the modifications, accommodations, and other supports my child needs to succeed?
  • Is the school expecting the kind of progress I think my child should make?
  • Is the expected progress enough for my child to meet graduation requirements?
  • How often will my child’s IEP goals be reviewed?

Q. How can I prepare for a school meeting?

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:

  • Ask for and review evaluation data before the IEP conference.
  • Know who will attend, and who you will bring.
  • Gather information to share, including medical or other assessments.
  • Write down your questions.
  • Write down your priorities.
  • Let the school know if the meeting time does not work for you.

Q. I want to be a good advocate for my child at the school meeting. What can I do?

A. Below are some tips for parents as they participate in an IEP meeting:

  • Remember to use good communication skills throughout the meeting. The goal is to partner with the school and work together.
  • Introduce yourself if no one else does, and ask others to introduce themselves.
  • Introduce anyone you bring with you.
  • Ask who the LEA representative is. A LEA (Local Educational Agency) representative must attend an IEP. Consider rescheduling or delaying the meeting if the LEA is unable to attend.
  • If this is the first IEP meeting, find out which team member is most familiar with the child’s diagnosis and evaluation procedures so you can direct questions to him/her, as appropriate.
  • Bring enough copies of the child’s strength sheet or other information for all team members. Allies has created a strength sheet, for your use.
  • Address your concerns about the child, as well as the child’s strengths. Make sure this information is included in the IEP.
  • Have clear goals in mind. Make sure that goals are written to address high priority concerns and needs.
  • Be prepared to negotiate. See if there are alternative ways to meet goals.
  • Ask for time to study the proposed IEP before you sign it, if you are unsure or if you have questions or concerns.
  • The IEP is not permanent — it can be changed as needed.

Q. What paperwork do I have to keep? Doesn’t the school maintain a copy of all records?

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:

  • Medical records (be very careful about what medical records you choose to share with the school)
  • School records
  • Assessments (formal testing and classroom work)
  • IEPs
  • Discipline reports
  • Letters
  • Observations
  • Tracking sheets
  • Emails
  • Telephone notes

Q. What if I don’t agree with the school’s decision regarding my child’s special education plan?

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.

Q. The school said my son should have a 504 Plan. What is that?

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.

Q. How does my child qualify for Section 504?

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:

  • Walking
  • Seeing
  • Working
  • Breathing
  • Hearing
  • Speaking
  • Self care
  • Learning
  • Performing manual tasks

Q. Can my child be evaluated for a 504 Plan?

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.

Q. What are some accommodations my child can receive on a 504 Plan?

A. The assigned accommodations should support the child in accessing the general education curriculum. The accommodations do allow for some flexibility in services, including:

  • Monitor and administer needed medication
  • Behavior/assignment tracking
  • Allow preferential seating
  • Provide school counseling
  • Set up behavior management plan
  • Social skills instruction
  • Establish home and school communication
  • Reinforce positive behavior
  • Schedule shorter study and work periods
  • Close adult supervision at recess/lunch
  • Classroom aide
  • Crisis management plan
  • Reduce homework as needed
  • Short breaks to reduce stress as needed
  • Cool down period

Q. Who is on my child’s Section 504 team?

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:

  • Principal (or designee)
  • Classroom teacher(s)
  • Student (when appropriate)
  • Others (as appropriate)

Q. What are my parental rights under Section 504? What if I don’t agree with the school’s decision?

A. You have the right to:

  • Have notice about the identification, evaluation, and placement of your child on a Section 504 Plan.
  • Have access to your child’s school records.
  • Request a hearing in respect to the district’s actions related to your child’s Section 504 identification, evaluation, or placement, and participate in the hearing.
  • File a complaint with your school district Section 504 Coordinator or with your Regional Office of Civil Rights. For information regarding this right, contact the U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C., at (800) 421-3481.