Anxiety disorder-battling the school district for my daughter's special education needs

Patricia A - posted on 10/27/2012 ( 23 moms have responded )

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Hi, I am posting in the hopes that there are other moms out there who may be going through, or have gone through battling their school district regarding the placement of their child who has been diagnosed with anxiety/depression/bi-polar, etc.

My daughter has had problems going to school for over 3 years now. She started having problems when she started middle school. She could not handle the stress of going from class to class, and remembering her locker number, and what books she needed for her morning classes, and what books for the afternoon classes, etc. She is a bright student, scoring high on her ELA's, and Math, actually only points away from genius level. For a long time, she was not believed by teachers, and some of the other staff at the school, as she was sick every day with some vague symptom, mostly stomache aches, headaches, sore throats, tired, etc. After taking my daughter to several doctors, many of them at the school's request, and paid for out of my own pocket, she was diagnosed with depression, anxiety disorder and bi-polar. I am very familiar with CSE meetings, IEP's, and after three years, and 3 different placements, (two of them residential), I am finding it harder and harder to get through to the school that my daughter does not fit into any of the school's idea of educational placement. I have done much research on this, and have had conversations with doctors, psychiatrist, counselors, social workers, and most recently, a lawyer, who specializes in representation of disable children and children with educational challenges. Basically, I have found out that there is no kind of educational placement available for a child with anxiety disorder, other than mainstreaming them with the general population of children, and hoping that they can cope with the help of medications, and home therapies, or, like in my case with my school, sending them away to residential schools where they have to live away from you, and are in populations of not only other children with anxiety and depression, but children who have other emotional problems, like anger issues, behavior problems, drug and alcohol abuse, mental retardation, autism, and all kinds of other social/emotional problems. She sees a counselor two times a week, who basically thought that my daughter was manipulative when she said she could not get through a class because she was having anxiety. If she could not get up on time, or could not get up at all, they had one of the superintendants come in to get her up. If he did not succeed by telling her to get up, he would start banging on the walls, and closets, and her headboard with a stick. This did not work. My daughter is sensitive to sounds, and gets upset easily with high pitches in peoples voices. The banging on the headboard did not help her get any better in dealing with her anxiety. She is only 14, and she misses being home more than anything. She would call me every nite, crying, begging me to come pick her up. It's heartbreaking. The district keeps telling me "least restrictive environment", meaning that my daughter should NOT be home tutored, because that would make her regress, and not get, well. Well, let's see now, she's been trying for three years the way the school says is best for her, and although they have passed her to the next grade level each time, being a resident away from home has not helped her anxiety. One of the schools she was placed in was an all girls residence with no outside communication. No cell phones, no computers, i-pods, ibooks, no internet whatsoever, and no games, no tv. No going home on week ends either, unless it was earned. (A hard task to earn there). She was not allowed to call home if she had not gone to school. She might as well have been in a convent. It was awful there. The staff there could not get my daughter to go to school. For over a month. She gave up. Her consequences just kept mounting and mounting, and she felt as though she was being punished for something that she could not do. They figured that she would "come around" and want to earn back her priveledges. No. She was miserable. She could not get over the fact that all of her priveledges were taken away because of something that she was, in her mind unable to do. She did not get any counseling there either, because you see, the counselors were at the school. If you cannot get up to go to school, you do not get the counseling that you so desperately need.

The district is very sympathetic for my daughter, and to what we are going through. They understand that she has a debilitating emotional problem, and she needs additional help. However, they feel that the best place for her is in a residence. Because, the district does not have anything set up for children who have anxiety, or depression. They feel for me also, as it is difficult to watch your child flounder, and not feel as if they fit in anywhere. She feels as all she does is let me down, and make everyone around her upset. She feels like a failure in many regards. All she wants to do is feel better, and be able to go to school like other kids. My daughter needs help. At this point, I feel as though I am fighting a losing battle. The school feels as though I am just an mother, who, in wanting my daughter to have an education (which she has the right to), am steering in the wrong direction when I say I want her have some sort of one on one tutoring, with cognitive therapy and medication that will enable her to function without so much anxiety. Right now, in the least "stressfull" environment, at least for the time being, until she is able to go back to the least "restrictive" environment. It's not easy being the parent of a child that does not seem to fit the mold in what is classified as every child has the right to an education, but does every child fit what has been made the education basis? Not every child is able to cope with the standardized school settings. Is there a place or a way to educate children with special needs like my daughters' without sending her away? It's very easy for people to say "It's in her best interest", but it is also not their child that is being taken away from their security of home, and being made to stay away from their parent just in order to get an education.

Well, at the moment I am preparing myself for another emergency CSE meeting, and doing as much research as I can and am trying to have all my information ready, along with an advocate, and, if not an attorney, at least some good legal background on what I am in store for again. This time I am not giving up so easily. Its my child, and although I want her home for my and her own obvious reasons, I am trying to find some (any) sort of education that she can receive without having to be sent away. She is not crazy, she does not need to be hospitalized, she is not defiant, she wants to be schooled. I have my work cut out for me. I just had to vent. Thank you for allowing me the use of this space.



Patty

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Joyce - posted on 01/08/2013

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This sounds like my life. I am also looking ay residential centers and came across Mountain Valley in New Hampshire. Did you find them helpful or affordable. Most of these places want what I make in a year!

User - posted on 02/24/2014

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Patricia....I realize my response is late so I hope you still see this. My daughter is 17 and is supposed to be a Junior this year, but like your daughter has been battling severe anxiety and depression since eighth grade. Initially, she was cutting herself and was placed in an outpatient program for two weeks. She actually loved it and hated leaving. She takes Lamictal, Lithium and Ativan daily. She's had to give up extracurricular activities (competitive dance, cheerleading) and her grades have obviously taken a hit. She used to be an honor roll student. She also used to be one of the most popular students but her friends have dwindled away as absence doesn't seem to make the heart grow fonder. And, of course, due to the Lithium, her once perfect complexion has been tainted with acne. The first year she was being tutored at home, but not before child protective services was called to investigate my husband and I when our daughter was missing so much school. (Obviously the investigation was 'unfounded' and the social worker apologized for the imposition). The second year, my daughter began attending the tutoring center at the middle school for classes. But, her attendance was still hit or miss depending on the newest physical complaint (I.e. headache, throat hurting, joint aches, nausea, stomach upset, etc.). The school district would continually tell us that they would "meet her where she was at". But, due to poor attendance/grades she wasn't allowed to attend prom. So, in essence, understanding my daughters disability and "meeting her where she's at" is equivalent to punishing her for what is out of her control. We recently found out that my husbands employer is relocating us out of state. The good news is that we have family and friends there. The bad news is that for a child like our daughter, the anxiety is only going to be made worse. We were going to pull her out and homeschool her, but the school said they would be able to get her an IEP and help her get her diploma in a less stressful environment. They placed her in a 611 program. It's a small classroom removed from the mainstream classes where she's supposed to get the educational and emotional support she needs. But, as you described...her classmates have anger issues, autism, Aspbergers, etc. there are frequent outbursts and disruptions making getting an education difficult as these behaviors exacerbate her condition and the teacher often has to stop teaching to deal with a student. In the meantime, my daughter isn't getting any attention. In the "safe place" they've set up for her when she needs a break (counseling office) she's often told to go back to class. And, her counselor is rarely available to sit with her. The teachers have stated that she doesn't belong in the 611 program as she looks and acts normal and is incredibly smart. Like your daughter she's not crazy. We've fought to keep her in school because we know she wants to be with her friends, she wants to be well and she wants her normal life back. Moreover, the treatment for anxiety is supposed to be exposure with the realization that the thing you were scared of isn't scary but rather safe. Homeschooling her would limit her exposure and isolate her more and yet school has proven to not be a safe place so what am I reinforcing? At this point, she's most likely not going to graduate when her friends do and may have to settle for getting a GED. But why? Because she has anxiety and our schools aren't equipped to help her with that. They admit they don't have the accommodations to help her. So, unless you've found a better option, and I hope you have...it would seem that, for now, homeschooling may be the only way.

Kathleen - posted on 11/14/2012

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Hi Patricia,

Home tutoring can work. I've pulled Robin too. I did a time of healthy food, regular sleep, and exercise. Have you thought of working with horses? Connections with animals can be amazing. Horseback-riding lessons? Volunteering with SPCA. Hiking, running, kayaking. A shift of focus is key.

Kathleen.

Patricia A - posted on 11/13/2012

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Thank you Kathleen, I checked out the website. The Vancouver Learning Center looks like a great school, but that is so very far from me. Through my weeks of non-stop Internet researching, I have finally gotten an advocate, and she is guiding me in what I have to do right now. She also suggested a center that sounds "Perfect" for my daughter's needs. It is the Mountain Valley Treatment Center, located in New Hampshire. They are geared to help kids with anxiety. And it sounds like something that may change my daughter's life around. I am going to contact them for a consultation, and hopefully, I can convince my district to send her there if she is considered a candidate. Right now I am already getting a little nervous knowing that I have to go face the board and advocate for my daughter. I have a 10:30 CSE meeting. Thank you again for your help.



Patty

Patricia A - posted on 11/14/2012

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Well, it did not go as well as I had hoped. The meeting went ok, but the district made a decision to base their decision on the outcome of my daughter's evaluation with a new psychiatrist. When I came home from work to take her to her appointment, she told me that she was nervous about going, and then she started getting angry about having to go at all, and had a mini melt down. She says she's tired of living with stress all the time. She's always stressing about school, whether she's worried about getting up in the morning at school, and the consequences if she does not, or she's worried about getting through the day, without being able to take a break if she needs one. They have a room in her school called the inclusion room. It's designed for students to go there if they do not feel too good during the day. (I think). But, every time she asks to go there, the woman there gives her an attitude, and tells her to go back to class. She tells me that she does not ask to go there that frequently, but when she does ask, she's always told by the teacher that's in the room that she does not belong there. I don't get it. This school is supposed to have facilities set up for kids with emotional problems, but if they make them feel funny utilizing these facilities, what good are they? I guess it's something I have to address with the school to see what's going on here. Anyways, she's also upset about being told to go to yet another doctor to see what's wrong with her. She says that everyone already knows what's wrong with her, and yet she's still being told to go to another doctor to see what's wrong with her. She's tired of everyone telling her what to do, and that she has to go to school. She KNOWS this. She's having a difficult time in understanding why the school district will not allow her to have home tutoring and let her have a break from going to school for a while. She tells me it's hard enough for her to just live and get through each day, and that all the stress she feels from worrying about school issues makes it even harder. She was crying so hard last nite when she was telling me this. She just wants to feel better. She wants to feel good. She's so tired of feeling the way she's been feeling, and she feels as if no one is listening to her, and that nobody cares about the way she feels. I left her alone for a bit. I called the doctor's office and rescheduled the appointment, which I could not get another one until december 10th, but I made it half-heartedly, as I do not even know if I will be able to get her to go to this one. And, I have to deal with talking to the School today. I do not know what they are going to do based on this. They feel that she should be hospitalized since she cannot go back to school. This upsets her very much, and she kept saying "I'm not crazy!" "They want to put me in a mental hospital, and I am not crazy!" She was already in one for a week a couple of years ago. They did not do anything for her there. They basically told her that she does not belong there after her being there for five days.

The treatment center that I was looking into was a bust. I spoke with the director/founder. He said that the cost of staying there for treatment was $22,000.00 per month, and that the treatment was anywhere from 30 to 90 days. He also said that they did not take insurance, and that to date, he has not had one school district pay for treatment. Even with some of the parents obtaining attorneys. They are licensed for child care, and licensed for mental health care. But the schooling (tutoring) that they offer does not meet any school's standards. I think because they are not a licensed school. Because they are mainly a "treatment" center. Again, my kid falls through cracks. Anxiety is a real difficult diagnosis for kids. They really do not offer anything for these few kids that have crippling anxiety issues. They put them through hell with proving that they qualify for special education, and then, they really do not have any "special education" for kids with anxiety. They get lumped in together with all of the other special ed kids. Alot of who have behavior problems. Anyway...I do have an idea I am tossing around in my head. I am thinking maybe if the school can just appease my kid, just for a bit. Give her the home tutoring. Let her stay home for a little while. I will see if I can put her back on the pins program. She will have a probation officer come to the house again. She will have counselors coming to the house again. I will see if I can get my therapist to see her, instead of me. Just for a month or so. In that time, let her get home tutoring..I think if she is given just a little bit of a break, without having to worry about school for a little bit...maybe she will loosen up, and maybe I can get her to an appointment, and eventually, get her back to her school she's placed in. I will have to make some calls...and some emailing. I better get started while these thoughts are fresh in my head, and before they start sounding like a bad idea.....

23 Comments

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Cady - posted on 09/11/2015

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Hi. I'm wondering if any parents out there have experience with the residential programs at Harmony Heights, Oyster Bay, NY and/or The Ketchum/Charlton School, Burnt Hills, NY. Our 15 year old daughter is suffering from PTSD and a "NOS mood disorder". After numerous hospitalization a the school district has decided an all female residential program would best suite her. She is quite smart and does very well academically when she applies herself. Her behavior is extremely influenced by her surroundings and the personalities/experiences of who she interacts with. I am wondering about families experiences with these two programs specifically as this seems to be the direction the school is going.

Thank you.

Tracie - posted on 08/02/2014

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My daughter is at HH for 1.5 years for anxiety very much like what I've read here. She's 17, was ill for a year, and got left back, because of stress related illnesses. HH is NOT equipped for her. She's a bright kid, being treated like she's in kindergarten. Spoon fed the material. Two of her friends are back in the hospital, which is horrible. Because it's really hard to make friends there...don't let them fool you, there are kids there that are on drugs, kids with active problems, anger, eating disorders. She's worried about her friends mental health all the time so that it creates more anxiety for her. She has no outside friends, as they've all fallen away.

If anyone knows of anything we can do, please let me know. She's a day student, not at the residence. Thank you.

Rose - posted on 06/14/2014

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Hi, its 3am and my 10 year old just had her first attack last night until 430 am and now 24 hour later; she has panicked all day and all night again for the 2nd night in a row! It is unbelievable! How they feel real chest pains, cannot breath, every second asking "am I going to die" am I going to be okay" Oh my goodness, it is BREAKING my HEART! I cannot watch my precious baby go through this! I have to find help! A cure! Someone out there can help guide us! There has to be a better existence for our children!
If you have found any hope, PLEASE share

Rose - posted on 06/14/2014

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I hope you and your family are ok?
It is almost 3 am and it is the 2nd night in a row, last night being the 1st (anxiety attack EVER) for my 10-year-old daughter! I am beyond MORTIFIED at all the things I have read! Everyone seems helpless and it seem as though all the children have/are suffering and miserable? Isn’t there more we can do to give our children help! This seems like a life sentence of Misery?
Has anyone heard of a child with anxiety that had recovered and gone on to live a normal life or are they all doomed?
My child has just had her first two attacks and like allot of your kids, she is happy, straight a student, goes to an academy for gifted children etc...
I do not want to will her any more issues! I feel like I am going to crumble! I know that I cannot! And I will not! however, I am sooooo scared! Please can you or anyone tell me that this anxiety thing can go away? On the other hand, can she grow out of it?
I cannot believe this is happening and I do NOT know what, where, why, how to do anything!
Sorry for rambling! I am tired but mostly scared beyond words for my precious baby!
Thanks
Rose-AZ

Elizabeth - posted on 12/02/2013

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Patricia, My son is in the same boat as your daughter. Have you found any acceptable treatment centers, theraputic schools or other solutions?

Patricia A - posted on 12/03/2012

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My daughter went to Harmony for about a year. She hated it there. It's run like a nunnery, and they take away just about everything that a teenager is all about. They are not allowed cell phones, computers, video games, Tv, etc. They take away anything that puts the kids in touch with the outside world. And they have "consequences" for just about everything. It's definately not geared to treat girls with anxiety. They also do not let the girls come home week ends unless they earn it, and do not have any infractions. My daughter could not handle the fact that she was getting punished for not being able to get up in the morning. She was depressed, and had no motivation, and every time she could not get up, the weeks she had to wait to be able to go home on a week end grew longer. Plus, she would not be allowed to talk to the other girls, and, she was not allowed to call me. That killed her spirit. I did not like that placement.

Donna - posted on 12/03/2012

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is the school harmony heights? I also live on long island. Our stories sound exactly alike. Also did you ever hear of Terrap in huntington. they are known for anxiety.

Patricia A - posted on 11/14/2012

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I wish they would give her a chance with it, Kathleen. The odds are stacked against her though. I do not have much time to do things with her, as my job is so demanding, I am exhausted when I get home. She did equine therapy for about six months. She loves horses. She started working at the stable every Saturday in a program there with other teenagers. She would brush and walk the horses, help with all the chores, including mucking the stalls, and picking stones out of their hooves. She loved it. She went no matter what kind of weather it was, even snow. It was a great place, for all sorts of kids with handicaps. Anyway, I am not sure what I can set upnfor her to do long term, as I do not know what is going to happen with her district and their decision. I did talk with my therapist, and she agreed to see her weekly temporarily to try and ease some of her anxiety. But she also thinks that the longer she stays home the more she will regress.

Kathleen - posted on 11/13/2012

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I can feel the tiger in you. I know how it is to fight for the health and wellness of your child. Way to go. Know that we are all behind you, I hope that it works for you and your daughter. Keep us updated.

Kathleen.

Kathleen - posted on 11/12/2012

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Patty,

Try the Vancouver Learning Center. Dr. Gerri Schwartz is the head of the center. They have great resources. More with kids of different learning abilities, but they understand the link between anxiety and gifted kids.

Good luck, my thoughts are with you.

Patricia A - posted on 11/10/2012

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The school will always say they want to help. The problem is, not many schools are equipped to deal with kids with anxiety. They do not understand it. Not many people do either. I too, have had anxiety/depression/panic attacks all my adult life. I understand what my daughter is feeling. It is an effort for her to get through a whole day of school. The school will do anything in their power to keep your child going to school. They will tell you that she looks and acts fine. They will tell you that she is trying to manipulate you into keeping her home. They will tell you to force her to go, no matter what. They will say that they will take care of the crying mess when you get her there, and to leave her with them. She will be fine. After all, she's GOT to go to school. Do not listen to anyone who tells you that. Bring your daughter to a professional. I took my daughter to a nurse practitioner who can is licensed to administer psychotropic medications. She has also been to two or three psychiatrists. You have to get a diagnosis before the school will do anything. Most children's counselor's are aware of how the school works. In order to qualify for any special educational benefits, you HAVE to take her to get a diagnosis. I do not know if your school has special education counselors or not, but you can start at the main office, or the nurse, and ask where the special education Department is located. They might be able to give you the name of a psychiatrist and a counselor. You daughter may need one or the other, or both.

Melissa - posted on 11/10/2012

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The school wants to help, or so they say. The doctor said she wanted her to go to a physo. doctor and they can help with meds. I may do that but I suffer major Anxiety for years and I dont want my daughter on alot of Meds. We got her a Shih (dog) today and told her it gives her something to look forward to when she comes home, and I would also bring the dog with me to pick her up.

I printed out info yesterday and took to my daughters school for her teacher to read so they can understand what she feels and what she is going through.

Michelle1544 - posted on 11/10/2012

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I would pull her out of that school and try to find a better environment for her , maybe a Montessori school. I would also change her counselor. There are techniques a person can learn to help them cope with anxiety ! Also had anyone found the root to these issues?

Patricia A - posted on 11/10/2012

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Hi Melissa, I am sorry your daughter is already having such anxiety in going to school. She is so young. Maybe she is not ready for Kindergarten? You say she has been having anxiety all of her life. When do you remember it starting? What were her symptoms? I am just asking, because my daughter did not start having real difficulties in going to school for a few years. She started really having problems in the third or fourth grade. It was right after she saw another child throw up in class. Really freaked her out. Could not get her to go back for a while, in fear she would see it again. Had to take her to a child psychologist for a few sessions to convince her that she was associating school with throwing up. It wasn't easy back then either. We spent a lot of mornings in the nurses office, where I would eventually sneak out of the building while she was with the nurse.

Has your daughter been diagnosed by anyone? How much school has she missed so far? How is the school responding to it? Do they believe her? Or do they think that she is just trying to get out of going to school? I am not sure where you live, and what your school district is like. I have a very tough school district. They do not know how to handle kids with anxiety/depression. They did not believe my daughter for a long time, because they could not see anything wrong with her. She looked fine, and she acted fine. She just basically lived at the nurses office. She missed a lot of school with all kinds of ailments, and if I did get her to go, I could count on a call from the nurses office letting me know that my daughter was there, and she did not feel well. I hope your school is working with you on this. Is your daughter seeing a therapist? I think that's the most important thing for kids. To be able to talk to someone who understands the feelings they are experiencing, and to let them know that the feelings are just that, feelings. They can be severe, but they will pass. It is the fear of the feeling that keeps the anxiety going. As soon as they lose the fear of the feelings they experience, they will start healing. Anxiety is very tricky, and it can be crippling for some people. Especially children, who are supposed to be enjoying this time in their lives.

I wish I had more information for you. If you have any specific questions, or just want to talk, please feel free to contact me, and I will try to help you. I know that when I had anxiety, I read a book, written by Dr Claire Weeks, called Hope and Help for your Nerves. It helped me tremendously. You should search out some Books they have for children with anxiety, and panic attacks. I searched out a few, and there are many out there that are written in a way that kids can understand. Good luck to you.



Patty

Melissa - posted on 11/09/2012

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I have a 5 year old who is suffering Anxiety/panic attacks ...she has done this her whole life but we thought it was just her being spoiled ect. But this year starting kindergarden she has said she has chest pains, cant breathe, tummy aches, has even thrown up. Im as lost as can be. Some people say Homeschool her is the answer...some (school) said not to pull her because it will only set her back. I have tried natural meds like Calm Child that worked for a bit but she is back home today. I have now called the doctor to see about putting her on something called Buspar ...dont know if they will do it but my last try. If not I may try home schooling...Im so lost

Patricia A - posted on 10/29/2012

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Wow! I guess I AM as alone in my battle with the school district as I feel.

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