The MLO Minute: “Experts Recommend Screening All Children 8+ for Anxiety, and 12+ for Depression” —
By Jennifer Grobe, Esq., Attorney in MLO’s Special Education Department —
Many children and students struggle with mental health challenges that impact their full access to and participation in learning, and these challenges are often misunderstood and can lead to behaviors that are inconsistent with school or program expectations. Experts recognize an ongoing and unprecedented mental health crisis among American youth today which has reached a critical point and requires an increase in high-quality, research-based mental health services.
In new guidance, the US Preventive Services Task Force has recommended screening for anxiety in all children 8 and older and for depression in all children 12 and older.
Readily available general social-emotional screening instruments can be deployed systematically to standardize identification of anxiety and depression concerns in school settings. Some screening instruments are designed to assess for a specific anxiety disorder. For example, the Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory for Children screens for social phobia and anxiety disorder. Other broader screening instruments may be used to identify children with several different anxiety disorders, such as the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Disorders (SCARED), which screens for global anxiety and any anxiety disorder. The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) is widely used to screen for depression and to measure behavioral manifestations and severity of depression.
Screening tools alone are not sufficient to diagnose anxiety or depression. If the screening test is positive for anxiety, a confirmatory diagnostic assessment and follow-up is required. If students are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression which are interfering in their ability to access their education, the school should consider conducting a psychoeducational assessment and a functional behavior assessment (FBA) to adequately identify the student’s needs. The school may also be responsible for assisting the student in accessing a psychiatric evaluation.
If you believe you or your child would benefit from an evaluation, or if you are seeking an independent educational evaluation following a special education assessment, please contact our office to discuss your specific concerns. Our firm provides free consultations in all special education and damages matters, and most cases are handled without charge to families. Families should not hesitate to reach out to us for a free consultation.