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School Support Lacking for Emotional, Behavioral Issues, say Parents

Thursday, January 21, 2010 Child Health News J E 4
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1/3 of parents give primary schools an "A;" less than 1/4 give secondary schools an "A"

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Jan. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- School psychologists, counselors and social workers are often the first line of support for children with behavioral, emotional or family problems. Problems can range from attention deficit disorder and homelessness to depression and bullying all of which can make academic success a challenge.

The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health asked nearly 1,100 parents across the United States to grade their children's public schools on how well they support children with behavioral, emotional or family problems.

Thirty-seven percent of parents gave primary schools an A for support for children with ADHD and other behavioral problems, and 34 percent gave an A for support for children with emotional or family problems. Twenty-two percent of parents gave secondary schools an A for support for children with behavioral, emotional or family problems.

In contrast, for overall education 52 percent of parents gave primary schools an A and 38 percent of parents gave secondary schools an A.

"According to national estimates, about 20 percent of school-age children need formal mental health services related to conditions like autism, attention-deficit disorder, depression and eating disorders," says Matthew Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the poll and associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the U-M Medical School. "As many as 50 percent of children need emotional support to deal with difficulties in family, peer or other relationships. Our findings indicate that parents think schools are doing better with educational goals than with emotional and behavioral support."

In the current economic climate, some stakeholders argue that school funds should be restricted to instructional services. However, drastic cuts to student support services may work against instructional objectives if behavioral or emotional problems interfere with children's ability to learn, Davis says.

"As a new semester begins for many junior high and high school students, it's essential for parents to communicate with their children's teachers about emotional, behavioral and family concerns that they worry may affect children's school performance," says Davis, who is also associate professor at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

If parents find school resources declining due to budget constraints and need assistance, Davis suggests they start with their primary care providers who can help direct them to appropriate services in the community.

Resources for parents

American Academy of Pediatrics:

Policy on School-based mental health services: http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;113/6/1839

Mental health links:

http://www.aap.org/mentalhealth/mh8ml.html

Downloads:

Report: http://www.med.umich.edu/mott/npch/pdf/11910report.pdf

Figures: http://www.med.umich.edu/mott/npch/pdf/11910.figures.pdf

Poll questions: http://www.med.umich.edu/mott/npch/pdf/11910question.pdf

Methodology: This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by Knowledge Networks, Inc., for C.S. Mott Children's Hospital via a method used in many published studies. The survey was administered in May 2009 to a randomly selected, stratified group of parents age 18 and older with children (n= 1,087 for parents with children in public schools) from the Knowledge Networks standing panel that closely resembles the U.S. population. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau. The survey completion rate was 56 percent parent panel members contacted to participate. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 1 to 7 percentage points, depending on the question. For subgroups, the margin of error is higher.

To learn more about Knowledge Networks, visit www.knowledgenetworks.com.

Purpose/Funding: The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health - funded by the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases and part of the CHEAR Unit at the U-M Health System - is designed to measure major health care issues and trends for U.S. children.

Link to National Poll on Children's Health website:

http://www.med.umich.edu/mott/npch/

SOURCE University of Michigan Medical School
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