Growing up, it almost felt like there was a certain scent in the air this time of the year. I remember thinking to myself that it smelled like school. I ‘m not sure exactly why, but maybe it was the brisker quality of the air that is so characteristic of a September morning. For many it is an exciting time, a time to reconnect with friends, socialize, engage in sports, clubs and other extracurricular activities and the like. A time to set goals and plan their schedule for the upcoming year and continue working towards their respective college, work and/or career aspirations. In doing so taking on greater responsibility and autonomy.
Yet for others, this time of year can be be much darker bringing a host of negative emotions, angst, depression and paralyzing anxiety among others. Now that vacation season is over, we are back to work and kids are back in school, the hustle and bustle of this time of year can certainly draw our attention away from noticing arising issues or problems. As parents we need to be aware of the signs and signals so that we can intervene early. Unfortunately, in my practice the beginning of the school season can be quiet, as people are settling back into their roles, duties and responsibilities. Early signs of trouble can be subtle, and fly under the radar and all too often are only spotted when things have begun to boil over.
It has been said that “an ounce of prevention is a pound of cure”. This old adage certainly rings true in my work. Whether the signs are outright overlooked, minimized, or put off to see how things develop, I find that there tends to be a tendency to hesitate when it comes to addressing certain emotional, behavior or learning issues. Time is precious, and I find that I am able to collaborate with schools, parents and other healthcare professionals and intervene with a child or teen in a much more effective manner when we identify the problem early and take action. Here are some signs to be on the lookout for: behavioral changes, substance abuse, isolation, withdraw, unexplained physical symptoms, self-harm, changes in mood, sleep, appetite and weight, problems with friends, peers, bullying and any other symptoms that do not seem “right”. As parents, you are the experts on your child. If you observe something that does not feel right, do not hesitate to reach out and consult with a qualified professional. If its worth thinking about, it’s worth speaking about!
Another area that we need to be mindful of is academics. It is not uncommon for learning issues to underly and exacerbate behavioral and emotional issues. Schools can be overwhelmed in the beginning of the year, tending to scheduling issues, ensuring that courses and programming operate as planned, and putting out fires that staff is often stretched to the max. It is my experience that there sometime seems to be a ‘wait and see’ approach to addressing learning and educational problems. This can happen for a variety of reasons, we may wait to see if the child is able to work their way out of it, remediate on their own with extra help, or we may even attribute it to the students poor study habits. These are only a few. For the child struggling with these issues, it can be extremely difficult for them to keep up. Over time, and untreated these issues can develop into more serious learning issues that can seriously hold the student back, into clinical levels of depression and anxiety, impact them negatively socially or all of the above. As I discussed above, it you feel that there may be an issue, speak up because identifying any potential issue early will help provide the student with the supports they need to maintain a successful path. Schools have specially trained staff that can provide psychoeducational testing to the student and identify areas of strengths and weaknesses and put interventions in place to assist your student. If you feel that you approach your school and they feel for whatever reason testing is not warranted, I encourage parents seek a second opinion. There are many qualifies professionals in the community that can partner with the school and help your student get back on the track to success!
Stay tuned for additional posts coming soon.
Dr. Clint C. Stankiewicz