AUSTIN (KXAN) — School districts across the country are increasingly looking at ways to address mental health in the classroom. At Austin Independent School District, they’re not just teaching kids reading, writing and arithmetic but also how to deal with emotions and relationships through the district’s Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) program.
“Sadly, we are seeing more and more mental health issues in kids,” Dr. Arti Lal, a pediatrician at Baylor, Scott & White said.
But Lal said the good news is more teachers and parents are recognizing the signs.
“Basically anything outside the norm,” Dr. Lal said this can be behavioral changes such as whininess, irregular sleeping patterns and eating habits or kids becoming more reserved.
In her 20 years as a pediatrician, things have changed, Lal said. One big factor is social media.
“They’re learning from their immature peers, they’re not learning from adults who have a functioning frontal lobe,” she said, adding that social issues could add to the mental health problems students might be facing.
“Schools on lockdown, weather changes, gun violence, immigration issues with ICE knocking on your door and I think this is traumatizing the kids in very invisible ways,” Dr. Lal said.
In recent years, she’s noticed a spike in anxiety and depression in children, but unlike 20 years ago Lal said today, people are talking about it.
At present, AISD offers therapy for students going through trauma as a result of a crime like child abuse, sexual assault and homicide. The district partnered with Vida Clinic and have clinics in more than 40 schools with plans to add more.
Just last week, AISD approved a $2 million contract to keep the program as a long-term part of the district’s plan.
Austin Independent Schools Partnered with Vida Clinic:
- Anderson High School
- Andrews Elementary School
- Austin High School
- Barbara Jordan Elementary School
- Bedichek Middle School
- Bertha Sadler Means YWLA
- Blanton Elementary School
- Blazier Elementary School
- Bowie High School
- Burnet Middle School
- Casey Elementary School
- Cook Elementary School
- Crockett High School
- Dobie Middle School
- Doss Elementary School
- Eastside Memorial High School
- Guerrero-Thompson Elementary School
- Gus Garcia YMLA
- Harris Elementary School
- International High School
- Kocurek Elementary School
- Langford Elementary School
- LBJ Early College High School
- Liberal Arts and Science Academy
- Lively (formerly Fulmore) Middle School
- Martin Middle School
- McBee Elementary School
- McCallum High School
- Menchaca Elementary School
- Murchison Middle School
- Navarro (formerly Lanier) Early College High School
- Norman-Sims Elementary School
- Northeast (formerly Reagan) Early College High School
- Oak Springs Elementary School
- Overton Elementary School
- Padrón Elementary School
- Palm Elementary School
- Pecan Springs Elementary School
- Perez Elementary School
- Pillow Elementary School
- Travis High School
- Wooldridge Elementary School
- Wooten Elementary School