Friday, January 27, 2012

The Hanigan Family

I am extremely concerned about the new Nebraska Truancy law. My child has been suffering from severe anxiety and what we originally thought was severe depression starting last spring. We arranged mental health counseling but saw little improvement over the spring and summer despite increasing mental health therapy to twice a week. The psychiatrist diagnosed my daughter with high functioning Autism/Aspergers and said that rather than depression we were seeing sensory overload and shut down. She recommended working with an OT as well as continuing counseling and medication. To do Occupational Therapy she must miss class once a week. This therapy has eliminated her need to spend hours curled up in a ball to deal with sensory overload.

Luckily for us the occupational therapy was able to happen during study hall and lunch so it is not  counted as an absence, but even if she had to miss class, we would be much better off to miss class rather than wait months for a non-school time to open up. Unfortunately we may still exceed the 20 absence rule by the end of the school year.

The days that my daughter misses school are not optional, if she is going to return to being a functional healthy teenager she has to see the psychiatrist. She also had to miss school to be hospitalized . My daughter is Autistic and fighting mental health problems, I can not imagine how much distress it will cause her if she has to appear in court for being truant!

We are in a no win solution. We could avoid the truancy law by having our daughter drop out of school, but this would be a drastic solution, especially since she is a good student who despite her mental health issues managed to have a 3.5 GPA for the 1st semester.

We could home school, but I can not provide as good an education as she is receiving and she loves school. So for now we will hope she does not get sick for the rest of the school year and that by some miracle we manage to keep her absences under 20. It is wrong that my daughter who is already dealing with debilitating anxiety must also worry that she will wind up in court because she is seeking treatment for her anxiety.

I can assure you that she has read every Internet article about the poor families that have had to go to court due to health related absences. Why is it that the state of NE thinks it is acceptable to add stress and discourage necessary medical care for children on the grounds that some parents falsely claim their children are ill. I always thought we strove to protect the rights of the innocent.

It would seem to me that the law could at least allow the schools and parents to agree that an absence is necessary or beneficial for a child so that only absences where the school and parents disagree would need to be turned over to the court system. I sincerely hope that Nebraska amends this law. I have heard that it is dramatically reducing absences but the personal and emotional cost to families dealing with medical crisis is unconscionable. It is no different than saying it is okay to make 99 innocent men stay in jail if it helps keep one guilty man from going free. This is how France operates not the United States.

Linda Hanigan

1 comment: