This year, for the first time, all MISD fourth- through 12th-grade students will have access to telebehavioral health services through Children’s Health Hospital, according to Jennifer Akins, MISD senior director of guidance and counseling. The program connects families to a behavioral health case manager who can perform assessments over the phone and provide access to virtual counseling.
“Our kids are adjusting again to a new way of interacting with school,” Akins said. “As we move forward into this fall, I think just having flexibility and helping our students not only reconnect and recover from this experience, but also helping them find new resilience and new emotional stability moving forward, is important.”
Over the summer, MISD counselors received training with platforms for online engagement with students and underwent continued trauma training.
“This has been a traumatic period for people as they have experienced losses of their traditional supports,” Akins said.
While trauma training is not new to the district, the extra instruction helps counselors develop good strategies for recognizing and treating symptoms of trauma, Akins said.
With some students staying home and many UIL activities put off, student interaction is limited this year. Education experts have said that social encounters are a big reason why people want their kids in school.
“School is a huge part of how kids connect with their peers,” said Ranita Cheruvu, senior lecturer at the University of North Texas’ College of Education.
Student interaction from sporting events, concerts and dances as well as in the hallways are important for their development, identity and overall school experience, Cheruvu said.
While school activities are limited this year, this should not be entirely unfamiliar to students, Akins said. During school breaks or in the summer, students have to go without their previous schedule or activities. She encouraged people to think creatively about how to connect to others and their peers.
“There are lots of areas where, as a community, we're having to adjust to different ways of connecting,” Akins said.
More information about the district's counseling partnerships and community resources can be found here. Parents can also follow the @MISDParenting page on Facebook to stay engaged with district efforts.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Uclés