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We will publish a newsletter series here throughout the school year, usually once per trimester. Choose how YOU want to stay in touch with SSS news! Parents can select the Subscribe button on this page to opt-in and receive the SSS newsletter by email. Or you can simply visit these pages to see what's happening any time. The choice is yours.
 
NOTE: If you subscribe to more than American Academy news page, you will receive all updates in no more than one email, once per day. If there are no updates to from any grade-level or specials news pages, you will not receive any updates email.
 
Welcome to Student Support Services (SSS) News: We will be posting SSS updates here throughout the year and we invite you to come learn more about what we do to support ALL students at American Academy.  We strive to provide families with information and helpful tools to best support their students.  We highly encourage you to visit our Student Support Services website throughout the year to learn more about our team and to receive helpful tips to support your child at home. 
 
Elementary Parent-Teacher Conferences (5/8/19)
The Student Support Services team will be available May 15-16 at each campus.  Please sign-up to schedule your time with a specific member of our Student Support Services team at the appropriate campus.
 
 
 
Student Mental Health (5/7/19)

 

Support Around School Violence:

High profile acts of violence, particularly in schools, can confuse and frighten children who may feel in danger or worry that their friends or loved-ones are at risk. They will look to parents, school staff, and other trusted adults for information and guidance on how to react. Parents and staff can help children feel safe by establishing a sense of normalcy and security and talking with them about their fears.  As families and staff, we all want to know how we can help students with these conversations.  

 

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) provides a wealth of resources for parents and educators when talking with students. Talking to Children about Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers includes the following highlights plus much more:

  1. Reassure children that they are safe. Emphasize that schools are very safe. Validate their feelings. Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy occurs. Let children talk about their feelings, help put them into perspective, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.
  2. Make time to talk. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Be patient; children and youth do not always talk about their feelings readily. Watch for clues that they may want to talk, such as hovering around while you do the dishes or yard work. Some children prefer writing, playing music, or doing an art project as an outlet. Young children may need concrete activities (such as drawing, looking at picture books, or imaginative play) to help them identify and express their feelings.
  3. Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate.
    • Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Give simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.
    • Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools.
    • Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines (e.g. not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to the school safety made by students or community members, etc.), communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs.
  4. Review safety procedures. This should include procedures and safeguards at school and at home. Help children identify at least one adult at school and in the community to whom they go if they feel threatened or at risk.
  5. Observe children’s emotional state. Some children may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can also indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort. In most children, these symptoms will ease with reassurance and time. However, some children may be at risk for more intense reactions. Children who have had a past traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or with special needs may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others. Seek the help of mental health professional if you are at all concerned.
  6. Maintain a normal routine. Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health. Ensure that children get plenty of sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Encourage them to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed.

    The following are some suggested talking points to emphasize when talking to students:

    Schools are safe places. School staff works with parents and public safety providers (local police and fire departments, emergency responders, hospitals, etc.) to keep our students safe. We all play a role in our school’s safety.
  • There is a difference between reporting, tattling or gossiping. You can provide important information that may prevent harm either directly or anonymously by telling a trusted adult what you know or hear.
  • Senseless violence is hard for everyone to understand. Doing things that you enjoy, sticking to your normal routine, and being with friends and family help make us feel better and keep us from worrying about the event.
  • Stay away from guns and other weapons. Tell an adult if you know someone has a gun. Access to guns is one of the leading risk factors for deadly violence.
  • Violence is never a solution to personal problems. Students can be part of the positive solution by participating in anti-violence programs at school, learning conflict mediation skills, and seeking help from an adult if they or a peer is struggling with anger, depression, or other emotions they cannot control.

    NASP provides a great resource for Care for Caregivers: Tips for Families and Educators that includes the following highlights:
  1. A natural instinct for parents and other caregiving adults is to put their personal needs aside in order to ensure the safety and well-being of the children in their care. It is extremely important, though, for caregivers to monitor their own reactions and take care of their own needs, because failure to do so can result in stress and burnout. This is particularly true for crisis situations in which normal support systems and routines have been severely disrupted and for which recovery will take a long time.
  2. Burnout interferes with one’s ability to provide crisis support and intervention assistance. This can be true in the aftermath of an immediate crisis like a natural disaster or terrorist attack as well as during extended periods of stress and anxiety like war.
  3. In addition to burnout, caregivers also may experience secondary trauma or stress that results from learning about another’s traumatic experience and/or helping someone who has been directly affected by such tragedy.
  4. While any caregiver may exhibit signs and symptoms of stress and secondary trauma, caregivers who have their own histories of prior psychological trauma, loss and grief, mental illness, or who lack social and family resources will be more vulnerable to these issues.
  5. Some reactions are commonly experienced by caregivers after a crisis; however, others may warrant professional support or monitoring. These include:
    1. Cognitive reactions such as an inability to stop thinking about the crisis, loss of objectivity, an inability to make decisions, and/or express oneself verbally or in writing.
    2. Physical reactions such as chronic fatigue and exhaustion, gastrointestinal problems, headaches and other aches and pains, loss of appetite, or difficulty sleeping.
    3. Emotional reactions such as excessive worry or anxiety, numbing, irritability, anger or rage, distressing thoughts or dreams, and/or suicidal thoughts and/or severe depression.
    4. Behavioral/Social reactions such as alcohol and substance abuse, withdrawal from contact with loved ones, or an inability to complete or return to normal job responsibilities.
  6. All caregivers need to consider the following suggestions to prevent burnout:
    1. Physical self-care: Maintain healthy eating habits and drink plenty of water; limit the use of alcohol or other substances; get adequate sleep.
    2. Emotional Self-care: Know your limitations; recognize that your reactions are normal and occur frequently among caregivers, including many well-trained crisis professionals.
    3. Social care and connection: Maintain normal daily routines; connect with trusted friends or family; connect with systemic supports such as your faith and school communities; process or debrief the events at the end of each day with other caregivers or colleagues. This is especially important for crisis responders.
    4. Adequate support resources: Acknowledge that you and your family may need additional help. Access crisis support resources provided by community and volunteer services, including social–emotional and mental health supports.

The following are a few additional resources that have been provided to us from DCSD’s Mental Health Team:
School Violence Prevention: Tips for Parents and Educators
Managing Strong Emotional Reactions to Traumatic Events: Tips for Families and Teachers

 
Adding to our conversation below around anxiety and stress, we wanted to provide additional resources to support the difficult mental health topic of suicide.  Suicide is a very complicated act with multiple causes. In many cases, a mental health condition is part of it and is treatable.  If you or your student are not feeling well in any way, it is very important to reach out for help. Suicide is not a solution. You have options for help:

• Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
• Go to the nearest crisis center or hospital emergency department.
 
If you are concerned that your child is a danger to themselves or others:

• Call 9-1-1 for immediate safety concerns
• Go to the nearest hospital emergency room
• Call the AllHealth Crisis Line (303)730-3303
• Visit the AllHealth Mental Health Crisis Walk-In Center open 24/7/365 at 6509 S. Santa Fe Drive
• Contact Highlands Behavioral Health (720)348-2800 www.highlandsbhs.com to schedule an evaluation
 
If your child is struggling with significant emotional concerns or physical symptoms (problems sleeping or eating, panic attacks, loss of interest in typical activities, changes in peer interactions, etc.), set up an urgent mental health appointment. It is strongly recommended that you find a practitioner who has experience helping adolescents with depression, anxiety, grief and loss. You can do this in a variety of ways:

• Ask your primary care physician for a referral
• Contact your student’s school counselor/social worker/school psychologist for a list of clinicians in the
area that have experience working with adolescents and their families.
• Choose a provider on the approved list of your private insurance company
• Contact AllHealth Network to schedule an intake/appointment (303)730-8858 www.allhealthnetwork.org
 
If your child is struggling with attending school or engaging in activities due to mental health concerns or profound grief:

• Encourage your child to try attending classes or resuming activities. Routine is helpful when experiencing grief.
• Call the school counseling office and speak with the assigned counselor/social worker/psychologist to
brainstorm ideas and interventions.
• Inform your student’s teachers or consider empowering your student to reach out to a trusted adult. School staff can often provide support to students during a time of grief.
• Support your child with gradual exposure to their previous school routine.
• Sign a consent form for the school mental health team to communicate with your child’s private therapist
and/or physician. Collaborative, confidential conversations between parents, school staff and private mental
health or medical providers can be extremely powerful.
• Remember that every child copes differently. Expect ups and downs. Don’t assume your student will
necessarily recover at the same pace as their peers.
• Trust your gut – if you feel your child would benefit from additional mental health support, seek it out.
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Our Student Support Services team is always available to work with families and students to provide guidance and support access to resources available in our community.  Our School Counseling page provides additional resources from American Academy. 
 
 
Mental Health Update 3/4/19
 
Can you believe March is already here?  With Spring on the horizon, we have a lot to look forward to at American Academy. The third trimester of the ’18-'19 school year is going to be a busy one, filled with lots more learning and fun.This time of year can be more stressful and exhausting for students, their families, and educational staff alike. It is important that we are all taking care of ourselves both physically and mentally. As a starter, take some time as a family to discuss those things that help give us balance in life and then be sure to support each other with those things when life can become a bit stressful and overwhelming. This update focuses on supporting children when they express anxiety, stress, or possible other emotions, such as grief, this time of year. Please also visit our School Counseling page for additional information. 
 
What to Say to Children When They Are Anxious
As our children are moving into the third trimester they are dealing with many emotions. This may include excitement for Spring Break and the downhill trek to summer vacation, stress from homework, conflicts with peers, and a host of other emotions. Spring is an exciting time in schools but it is also a time that can lend itself to anxiety in our children and ourselves. Our Mental Health team has pulled together some resources regarding anxiety in children, coping with stress, and grief/loss. Our hope is that if you're family is dealing with these difficult emotions, the following resources may come in handy.
 
Resources for Anxiety and Stress:
Heavy Duty: Stress among kids is at an all-time high.  Why? Experts explore what makes modern childhood more stressful than ever and how parents can ease the pressure (view attachment on right)
 
Talking Points to Use With Children Who have Experienced a Loss:
• Validating their feelings; there is no right or wrong way to react to a loss
• It can be helpful for parents to share their feelings; this lets the child know it’s okay to talk about
• Encourage them to talk with an adult they trust since other kids often don’t have answers or resources to help with grief
• Let kids ask questions, and try to answer the best you can but it’s also okay to say you don’t have an answer while reassuring them
• Two biggest worries in school-aged children are 1) will I die/what will happen after I die and 2) what will happen to me if my parents die; sometimes the most comforting way to address #2 is to be logical and make a “plan”
• Encourage or even enforce that the kids engage in self-care; important for everyone, but especially during difficult times. Some students feel guilty at the idea of taking care of themselves or doing something they enjoy when others are suffering, but reminding them that they can’t be strong for others until they take care of themselves is a good way to give them “permission” to use self-care and take a break
• If they’re close to the person that was lost, finding a way to memorialize or remember them can help bring closure (e.g. planting a flower, creating a piece of art, writing a letter to the person they lost, visiting a special place on special dates)
 
The following resources could be helpful:
 
Additional books on topics related to grief/loss, worry, and emotions in general. (view attachment on right)
 
Additional Mental Health Resources:
The following information has been sent out to all families of Douglas County School District in the past.  We wanted to post it again as it contains some great information regarding mental health resources for families.  Below is a list of resources for parents, should you have a concern that your child may be experiencing behavioral changes, mood swings, depression, or suicidal thoughts.

• Call 911 if there is an immediate threat to your child or others
• Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or the National Crisis line at 1-800-273-8255: Information About Types of Services and Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Colorado Crisis Services
• Safe2Tell at 1-877-542-SAFE (7233)
DCSD Mental Health Intervention website
• Parent resources for the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why: Fact sheet about 13 Reasons Why from the non profit group, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, 13 Resources for “13 Reasons Why” Conversations
Mobile apps for wellness and recovery
Let’s Talk Colorado (Douglas County Government and Tri-County Health campaign)
 
Safe2Tell
Safe2Tell is a resource that our Mental Health team will be sharing with all AA middle school students. This anonymous reporting system provides a way for students, parents, and community members to report unsafe and risky behaviors before they grow out of control. Even though we may feel like our children are too young to be dealing with some serious issues like self-harm, fighting, bullying, and threats, we want to give them the tools to report their concerns when they arise. Students will be provided with handouts that familiarize them with the Safe2Tell resources.
For more information, please visit Safe2Tell.org.