Hi Everyone - I added a schedule so that this reads more like a workshop.- Kimberley

Mental Health and its effects in the classroom - A Presentation by Teachers
2 hours time
12:00-2:00 p.m.

Presentation - Introduction of speakers

Global presentation - using Mental Models and the general idea of a ladder of inference

Preconceived Notions about Mental Health
- we will have small groups brainstorm about how mental health problems appear in the classroom and then write up on a whiteboard some of the preconceptions.

12:45-1:15 Specific Presentations
We will present the following information in handouts as well so participants can follow along.

Some or all of these symptoms of depression may be present:
  • Agitation, restlessness, and irritability
  • Appetite changes (usually a loss of appetite but sometimes an increase)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Episodes of memory loss
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, sadness, or self-hatred
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once fun
  • Thinking or talking about suicide or death
  • Trouble sleeping, excessive sleeping, or daytime sleepiness
Sometimes there may be changes in behavior or new problems at home or at school when there are no signs or symptoms of depression or sadness:
  • Acting-out behaviors (missing curfews, unusual defiance)
  • Criminal behavior (such as shoplifting)
  • Faltering school performance, grades dropping
  • Highly irresponsible behavior pattern
  • Use of alcohol or other illegal substances
  • Withdrawal from family and friends, spending more time alone
If these symptoms last for at least 2 weeks and cause significant distress or difficulty functioning, get treatment.

Children with ADHD may:
  • Get distracted easily and forget things often
  • Switch too quickly from one activity to the next
  • Have trouble with directions
  • Daydream too much
  • Have trouble finishing tasks like homework or chores
  • Lose toys, books, and school supplies often
  • Fidget and squirm a lot
  • Talk nonstop and interrupt people
  • Run around a lot
  • Touch and play with everything they see
  • Be very impatient
  • Blurt out inappropriate comments
  • Have trouble controlling their emotions.

bipolar characteristics in younger children http://connecticutnightmare.files.wordpress.com/2007/10/26af-pediatricbipolardisordermay07.pdf

-Autism Spectrum

Some or all of the following characteristics may be observed in mild to severe forms:

• Communication problems (e.g., using and understanding language);
• Difficulty relating to people, objects, and events;
• Unusual play with toys and other objects;
• Difficulty with changes in routine or familiar surroundings; and
• Repetitive body movements or behavior patterns.

Children with autism or PDD vary widely in abilities, intelligence, and behaviors. Some children do not speak; others have language that often includes repeated phrases or conversations. Children with more advanced language skills tend to use a small range of topics and have difficulty with abstract concepts. Repetitive play skills, a limited range of interests, and impaired social skills are generally evident as well. Unusual responses to sensory information—for example, loud noises, lights, certain textures of food or fabrics—are also common.

here's a helpful video - http://www.med.jhu.edu/drada/video.html

http://www.schoolbehavior.com/Files/Webb2000.pdf - a good resource about misdiagnosis
http://www.schoolbehavior.com/Files/tips_mood.pdf - accomodations for students in the classroom

1:15-1:25 Break and General Discussion

1:25-1:45 Personal anecdotes from the perspective of a teacher and parent:

In each of these cases, assumptions were made which determined teacher/school response to students. We need to come back down the ladder of inference and investigate motives and causes in order to provide the best services to our students with mental health challenges.

From a parent of a student with special needs including physical handicapps and an autism spectrum diagnosis:

This parent had been struggling to get the teacher to understand the implications of the autism spectrum diagnosis in the classroom. The teacher had no special training in symptoms of autism or dealing with autistic students. A school counselor was planning to talk to the teacher, but the teacher was very experienced in the classroom and had expressed doubts that any additional input would be informative to her. On this occasion, Janey (name changed) was refusing to do a simple cut-out assignment. The students were supposed to cut out cards to be used in a reading game. Every student had a sheet of cards whose perimeters were outlined with dotted lines to assist the cutting process. It was an easy task for first graders. Janey was actually advanced in many areas compared to her peers. Janey was told to cut on the dotted lines to cut out her cards. Janey initially did nothing. When confronted by the teacher, she became increasingly upset. The teacher sent Janey to the office with her cut out work and told her she couldn't return to class until the assignment was finished. When the office staff tried to get her to just cut on the dotted lines, Janey became even more upset. Finally, the parent, Judy (name changed) was called. When Judy arrived, the teacher told her that this was a clear example of the willfull task refusal that she had been seeing in Janey. She told Judy that (more to come) she was going to take a firm line on these sorts of willful refusal behaviors. Judy asked Janey why she wasn't doing the work. Janey said, "I can't". Judy responded saying, "You can cut easily, so why can't you cut this?" Janey told her mom that she couldn't cut the squares out on the dotted lines, because there was no dotted line to the edge of the paper. Judy dashed a little line to the edge of the paper and Janey easily completed the assignment. In this case, Janey's rigidly literal interpretation of the instructions to cut on the dotted lines coupled with her low communitcation skills and her poor problems solving skills resulted in what seemed to her to be an insurmountable conflict. She knew what the teacher wanted her to do, but she believed it was impossible. To her, the teacher was asking her to do the impossible, and it was upsetting. All of those issues, rigid literalism, inadequate communication and problem solving abilities are recognizably autistic difficulties, yet because the teacher was sure that the problem was stubborn task refusal, she didn't even probe to find out what might have been troubling her student. Sometimes the answer is as simple as a dotted line.

From a consulting teacher.

Every autism spectrum student I have encountered has resisted writing and had trouble with the writing process. This is not just learned helplessness or bad behavior, it is a symptom of the condition. It still needs to be addressed but with an awareness of the problem.

From a speech therapist:
Autism spectrum kiddos have communication issues that can be addressed in speech. They respond well to visual cues and concrete limits. Since communication is a problem for them and empathy is a problem for them, spending lots of time explaining why a particular behavior is not very sucessful and can be counterproductive. It's better to just say you have three cards, you may talk three times and no more in class. Hand in a card each time you say something during reading. They will learn the behavior and receive the benefit of the improved social response even if they don't understand all of it.

From a therapist working with a student with ADHD:
Here was this client at fifteen years old working feverishly to do individualized packets to earn some high school credit. He had recently been diagnosed and prescribed medication for ADHD. He asked me, "why didn't anyone tell me about this sooner?" He pointed out all the school work he'd been doing. He said he wanted to do his work all along, but he had given up. He thought he was just a bad kid, because he was in trouble all of the time. His whole sense of who he is is wrapped up in being that kid in trouble at school all the time and one pill changed all that. How much of that behavior was really choice? One common misconception that people have about ADHD is that when a kid does well one day, it means that he/she can do that well everyday. People think that any behavior less than their behavior on their best day is (more to come)

I found a website http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/
which addresses mental health problems in schools. Worth a look.

We would like to suggest some strategies for teachers to preserve their own mental health and avoid frustrations.

1:45-2:00 Discussion/Questions/Closure
Suggestions for Parent Interactions

We will encourage participants to take their original lists of 'problems' and brainstorm some possible solutions or at least strategies for dealing with these. During this time the guest speakers will circulate and help groups think about ways to deal with specific mental health challenges in the classroom.