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School-Based Interventions : Before You Begin
Before You Begin

This section of the web site presents interventions - or strategies - you can use to help students with mental health conditions to succeed at school. The interventions may be used in mainstream classrooms, classrooms for children with special needs, and during the time before or after school.

Many of the interventions are appropriate even if a student does not have a formal diagnosis, or does not qualify for special education services. Even minor interventions can adjust the school experience so that a student’s strengths outweigh his or her learning or behavioral challenges.

How to Find Appropriate Interventions on this Site

The following steps will help you find appropriate interventions:

Step 1: Select a Mental Health Condition

From the list of conditions in the School-Based Interventions section of the site, click on the student’s primary mental health condition. If you do not know the diagnosis, or if the student does not have a formal diagnosis, you can click on each mental health condition to learn about typical symptoms and see whether the child exhibits any symptoms associated with that mental health condition.

Step 2: Select Target Symptoms

Select the symptoms that you want to address. Symptoms are presented by mental health condition, as shown below.

Mental Health Condition Associated Symptoms
General Anxiety and Panic Worry, Emotionality
Separation Anxiety Separation Difficulty
Social Anxiety Social Fears
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Obsessive Thoughts, Compulsions
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Hypervigilance
Depression Sad Mood, Irritable Mood, Appetite Changes, Sleep Changes, Social Withdrawal, Fatigue/Energy Loss
Suicidality Suicidal or Self-Harm Thoughts
Bipolar Disorder (Manic-Depression) Manic Mood (Mania), Depressed Mood
Psychosis Hallucinations, Delusions
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Inattention, Hyperactivity, Impulsivity
Conduct Disorder/Oppositional Behavior Opposition
Autism Spectrum Disorders Communication Difficulties, Difficulties with Social Interaction, Restrictive Routines or Interests, Sensory Issues
Nonverbal Learning Disability Cognitive Difficulties, Social and Emotional Difficulties, Motor Difficulties
Eating Disorders Anorexia, Bulimia

Step 3: Select Appropriate Interventions

From the intervention strategies provided, select those that seem most promising and least disruptive to carry out.

Note that for each symptom, interventions are presented in four categories: accommodations, modifications, specialized instruction, and behavioral planning. These categories represent a range of approaches, from relatively simple changes made in the classroom to more complex plans implemented by specialists.

At one end of the spectrum, accommodations require a minimal degree of intervention and can be provided by a regular education teacher to help the student meet curriculum requirements. At the other end, specialized instruction is usually delivered by school staff with specialized training to address more significant mental health concerns.

Accommodation: A change to the way a student receives regular curriculum content – usually delivered by a regular classroom teacher. Detailed definition

Modification: A change in teaching strategies or in expectations concerning content the student will master – usually delivered by a regular classroom teacher. Detailed definition

Specialized instruction: A change to the content, performance expectations, and method of instruction – usually delivered by staff with special training. Detailed definition

Behavioral planning: Developing and applying a protocol to address specific behaviors that interfere with the learning environment – usually developed by a specialized team.
Detailed definition

Step 4: Apply the Interventions

It would not be feasible or appropriate to institute every intervention listed for a particular symptom. Instead, consider which symptoms interfere most with a student's school success, and prioritize interventions accordingly.

What to Keep in Mind
Keep in mind these considerations when deciding which interventions might work best for a particular student:

  • Can the intervention be made in a way that does not call attention to the student’s being “different”? If not, can the intervention be made for the entire class or a group of students so no student is publicly singled out?
  • Will the student feel the intervention is helpful? If the student refuses to accept it, can you show the student how it will be helpful or how it will help the student meet his/her own goals?
  • Will the school be able to provide the intervention consistently over time? If not, can you select more realistic interventions?

Also keep in mind the following cautions:

  • The effectiveness of these interventions for any individual does not confirm or rule out a diagnosis.
  • Diagnoses should be made only by a trained clinician after a thorough evaluation.
  • Symptoms suggestive of suicidal or harmful behaviors warrant immediate attention by a trained clinician.  top

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