Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Talkin’ To A School District!

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on May 11, 2016

A school district “community health and safety advisory committee” wants me to talk about childhood anxiety disorders? Oh yes, sign me up. Why does this excite me? I feel that I have a public health mission to educate school professionals about childhood suffering, helping them to understand when they should intervene. I want to talk about the warning signs and then, most importantly, I want to talk about the referral process so that the administrators understand that depending on who they refer to, the child will get vastly different interventions. I also want them to understand the issues surrounding medicating or not medicating school-age children. In particular, I want to emphasize the role of the school personnel in aiding the assessment and treatment of children with anxiety disorders. This will no doubt bring up the issue of the school refusal kids. How does the school help if the child does not make it to school? Does providing online support help or hinder these kids? Hinder, will be my response, in that the school needs to provide a safe place for that child at school so that if the anxiety erupts, the child can stay at school, but go to a counselor who can give this child some comfort and support. Anxiety disorders are internalizing disorders meaning that unlike ADHD where the student typically disrupts learning, with anxiety, children tend to suffer quietly. As such, it is helpful if school personnel can try to attend to the child who is NOT demanding attention, but yet is lonely or lost on the playground. I have dreamed that both public and private schools could target these quietly  suffering children for intervention, as this gives so much  hope for helping these children live more fulfilling lives. Helping a lonely child, a lost child, develop connections such that they enjoy and look forward to school is a game-changer. As we all know, the future is in our children. These  children growing up will take charge of our world, and we hope, they will bring it to new and exciting places. We owe it to them to help them enjoy their childhoods, as part of  enlightened self-interest, since we want them to take care of us one day. I am on a very important mission. Wish me luck.

2 Responses to “Talkin’ To A School District!”

  1. Shelly said

    Do private schools in the US actually care to treat kids with anxiety disorders? Or do they just want the parents to medicate and keep the kids quiet and non-disruptive? My experience has been the latter. Private schools can be choosy and if the child doesn’t conform, they make you leave. Public schools, on the other hand, do seem to want to help, since they have less of a choice. And what about expanding your teaching to the police and other public personnel? That’s been in the media a lot lately.

    • First, I want to say that I would love the opportunity to talk to police and other public personnel. It has been a challenge for me to find the portal of entry to do that. Second, in general, when the student/teacher ratio is smaller, then the staff have more of an opportunity to notice subtle differences in a child’s attitude and behavior and so the child is unlikely to fall through the cracks. Generally speaking anxious kids do not cause disruption so there is no incentive to quiet them down. This is in sharp contrast to disruptive kids where the teacher may have a strong incentive to numb the child so that he/she can contain the classroom. Thanks, as always for your comments.

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