I suspect anyone that has to wake up teens already knew this, but the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends a later school start time for middle and high school students. This is because of the natural sleep cycle and schedules of our busy teens. Lack of sleep = public health and academic performance issues. And this is for typical students. Many students with mental health issues have additional issues when it comes to sleeping.
I find this interesting because at an IEP meeting for my daughter yesterday the LEA said, “perhaps you could try giving her an earlier bedtime so that she can get more sleep”. Hmmm…wonder why I (nor her therapist nor the medical doctor) never thought of that. Oh wait…that was the 1st thing we tried back when she was a preschooler. And in elementary school. Every single year.
My daughter has had sleep issues since, well, since she was in my womb. That child has a natural nocturnal sleep pattern, and her ADHD and anxious brain will just not let her rest. I get it. I have the same brain. It takes me an hour to get to sleep most nights, just like it does Fiona.
I am usually the consummate professional that can understand people sometimes have a lack of information. But this made me mad! First, I’m a psychologist with a PhD and I am a parenting expert. Not that that even matters because truth be told, all parents know their children. What parent wouldn’t start with an earlier bedtime? This vice principal was outside of her knowledge base, and I got mad when something as easy as an earlier bedtime is the solution being offered. And I told her such. In fact, I might have mentioned that she might need to get a bit more training on adolescent brain development. I might have said a few more things, but I can’t remember it all clearly now.
You should know that this reaction stemmed from my request for a later start time accommodation for my daughter. Fiona has always had sleep issues, but it is really catching up with her this year. She is stick, tired, and sick and tired of school. I have a letter from the doctor documenting the medical concerns. More sleep might be just what she needs to be successful. My thinking was that if we all want Fiona to be successful, then perhaps a modified schedule could be a first start.
The answer is no. It can’t be in a formal IEP. She can have an excused absence if she is sick. Next.
What did I learn yesterday? There is room for education on the importance of developmentally appropriate practices and mental health realities for all of us that work with youth and their families. And when it comes to my kids, I recognize that I may have a bit of a temper if you question my kid or my parenting. But then again, I do have red hair.