Why is it important for parents, caregivers, and professionals to know about children’s mental health?
The University Center for Excellence on Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), an advocacy organization hosted by the American Samoa Community College (ASCC), addressed this question and more during its recent Child Mental Health Training.
Several dozen Special Education Resource specialists and counselors from public and private schools participated in the training, which included
presentations from both UCEDD and the Department of Human and Social Services (DHSS) Pua Center.
UCEDD Community Trainer Paulia Pa’o-Pelenato said the main accomplishment at the training was that it created a bridge for open communication between special educations' resource specialists and counselors and the government leading agency that deal with mental health issues in general
During UCEDD’s presentation, Pa’o-Pelenato explained that mental health disorders in children are more widespread than most adults believe.
Instructors and counselors in the schools especially need to be aware of mental health issues because they are often among the first people to see
that a child may be experiencing a problem. She said by understanding the nature of mental health disorders, school personnel can better plan
programs that meet their students’ needs and build a positive environment.
Pa’o-Pelenato cautioned that children with mental health concerns who do not have a positive environment or significant relationships may show
symptoms of depression while evidencing a failure to thrive. The stigmas surrounding mental health issues not only subject the child to negative
attitudes, but can also discourage their families from getting them the help they need.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common child mental health disorders, affecting 3 to 5 % of school-age children.
Children with ADHD face a challenge controlling impulsivity and inattention, but teachers can learn strategies for effectively channeling these traits for the benefit of both the child with ADHD and the class as a whole.
Children may also be struggling with Down Syndrome, which severely compromises language and communication abilities, or Tourette Syndrome,
which can be very generally described as a state of uncontrollable nervous reaction, or other Sensory Processing or Pervasive Developmental Disorders which interfere with learning.
Pa’o-Pelenato emphasized that through early intervention and especially through creating an emotionally healthy environment, children facing these
challenges can still thrive within a classroom situation.
Further information on helping children with mental health issues is available from UCEDD, located at ASCC, phone 699-9155, or email *firstname.lastname@example.org*. Another resource is the Pua Center at 699-4155.