Friday, August 9, 2013

OCD and What Teachers Need to Know

This is an especially important blog for me to write because it could have changed my life, and may change the lives of others.

The school year is just around the corner, and can be a very difficult time for kids with OCD. Life would be much easier for many of them of they had the understanding and  support of their teachers. Unfortunately, as many kids tend to hide the severity of their OCD, many teachers remain unaware of the signs of OCD in their students. If they could be alerted to the symptoms, perhaps they would be able to detect potential problems and save many children much suffering. Also, if teachers was aware, they could potentially alert unaware parents and get suffering the help and support they so desperately need.

Teachers are with students every day for several months. Sometimes, students see their teachers more than their parents for a variety of reasons: parent's work schedules, second jobs, cooking or cleaning- and kids can have after school activities, or spend time in their rooms after school. Often when the family is together, there may not be a lot of quality one on one time during a normal school week, as things can be hectic.

The following excerpt is from my book, OCD and Me, My Journey Through Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which will be available as of Sept. 30, 2013. This is why I failed Algebra...

"That day, I was sitting in my first period algebra class, my mind drifting off about my sick Uncle Pat, when, out of the blue, I had an uncontrollable urge to align the long nails of my index fingers, from the cuticles, making them touch together until I got to the tips. I thought that if I didn’t do this perfectly, a certain number of times, Uncle Pat would die, or someone else would get sick. It became a daily ritual, and an exhausting one.
As my nails are curved, they would almost always separate from one another while I was doing this. I would think, “Oh, no…okay, relax.  You can do it—just one more time and you won’t have to do it for the rest of the day.” And then, as I failed to accomplish this ritual, I would mentally scream, “Not again!”
Sometimes I’d get so nervous that I would sweat profusely. I felt that if I didn’t align the nails perfectly, something awful was going to happen. This feeling of dread remained with me, and focusing on anything else was very difficult.  I could not concentrate on my algebra due to this extreme anxiety.
Consequently, I failed that class and had to attend summer school. I hated to sit in a hot classroom all summer, but Uncle Pat seemed to be doing better, and I believed that perhaps I was saving him. At home I began to hear criticism of my schoolwork. “You were always such a good student. What is happening to you?” No way was I going to embarrass myself by explaining something so ridiculous, so I would keep silent and just shrug.
Perhaps, if my teacher had been aware that I was ritualizing throughout the entire period, she could have alerted my parents, and I may have been saved many years of suffering instead of failing me by one point! I would have known that I was not alone with my condition, my suffering was not normal, and I would eventually feel better. Also, I would have been aware that these problems were not my fault, and I would have gotten the help that I needed in order to avoid a life of mental torture."

Also from my book, this is what Teachers Need to Know. These are some Red Flags of OCD in School:

Raw, chapped hands

Unusually high rate of tissue, soap or paper towel usage

Chronic procrastination, such as spending too much time in the bathroom or putting off doing homework or assignments

Sudden drop in test grades

Requests for teachers, other students or family members to repeat strange phrases or keep answering the same question

Repeating actions, such as opening and closing books over and over again or wearing the same clothing over and over

Excessive counting of pencils, papers, etc.

Persistent fear and avoidance of illness (showing agitation when someone sneezes or coughs, etc.)

Excessive slowness whilst taking a test, completing an assignment, changing classes,  etc.

Constant daydreaming

Expressing fear that something terrible will happen to another student or teacher
Constant checks of the health of others

Holes from erasers in homework assignments

Excessive lateness

Desks, lockers, or backpacks filled with scraps of garbage
Poor or strange eating habits

Excessive preoccupation with details or constantly aligning things on desks

Of course, there are many parents who are aware of their child's OCD. They need to meet with teachers and inform them about their child's problem. This article may be useful for parents who are aware of their child's problem..

"Preparing the School for Your Child with Obsessive - Compulsive Disorder
By Terri Mauro, Guide

Teachers can be great allies in keeping your child with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder safe and successful in school, but you'll need to make sure they have all the knowledge they need to help. Use these suggestions to create a information packet to bring educators up to speed.

Five Things Teachers Need to Know

1. My child's obsessions and compulsions may appear to be voluntary behaviors, but they are signs of a mental health problem, not a disciplinary problem.

2. Please don't compliment my child on "perfect" work. This may reinforce his need to obsessively check or re-do things.

3. If there will be any sort of change in my child's classroom or routine, please notify me as far in advance as possible so that we can all work together in preparing her for it.

4. My child has significant challenges, but he also has many strengths and gifts. Please use these to help him have experiences of success.

5. Please keep the lines of communication open between our home and the school. My child needs all the adults in her life working together."

Awareness by both Teachers and Parents is key in the development and well being of children with OCD and all of the related disorders. Perhaps there could be a seminar, or a pamphlet to alert Teachers. I sincerely hope that this information will be made known to all so that children will be able to get the help they need in order to lead happy and productive lives!