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What Does Mental Health Support Look Like in Schools?

Mental health supports are available for all DC children, but students with disabilities may require specialized mental health services to support their unique needs.

What Does Mental Health Support Look Like in Schools?

DC schools are dedicated to supporting the mental health of their students. In addition to school-wide mental health lessons and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), DC offers mental health screeners, group or individual counseling, connections with community-based providers, staff trainings, and more.

Your child’s school employs a team of professionals to address mental health concerns, including school counselors, social workers, mental health practitioners (MHPs), school psychologists, and clinical psychologists. To learn more about your child’s specific mental health support team, reach out to their school directly.

Students with disabilities may be eligible for Behavioral Support Services (BSS) and Emotional, Social, and Behavioral Development goals on their Individualized Education Plan (IEP). In the same way that academic concerns are addressed, the inclusion of Emotional, Social and Behavioral Development goals is a team decision based on data.

If your child’s disability includes mental health concerns, a BSS program can be implemented. This program offers a set amount of hours per month and can be delivered in three different ways:

  • Inside the General Education Setting: Your child is supported by a mental health professional within the regular class.
  • Outside the General Education Setting: Your child is pulled from their regular class or activity for individual or group BSS sessions with a mental health professional.
  • Consultation: A mental health professional consults with your child’s teachers to create an effective support strategy without meeting directly with your child.

BSS is not just for students with problematic behavior, but for a wide range of emotional, social, and behavioral skills including self-regulation, personal organization, emotion-identification, self-esteem, anxiety, and more. Talk with your child’s case manager and IEP team about whether BSS is right for your child. Open communication is key.


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