Meeting Recap: Middle School & Mental Health
January 9, 2023
At our January 9th SEPAC SOMA meeting, a panel of SOMSD experts joined us to take a close look at anxiety in middle school, including signs of stress, strategies at home and how to get help at MMS and SOMS.
Alison Steiner explained how anxiety presents in the tween/early teen years, how parents and caregivers can support their child at home, and how to tap into support at our SOMSD middle schools, including the SOMS Social Work Intern Program. Caroline Raba shared info about The Hub, a grant-funded program with various groups and activities designed to support MMS students socially, emotionally and academically. Michael Zarabi presented an overview of ISTEP, a therapeutic, in-school counseling program at both middle schools for students with more intensive counseling needs.
MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT at SOMSD MIDDLE SCHOOLS
Mental health and counseling resources are available for all students at SOMS and MMS, not just those with an IEP or 504 Plan. The support structure looks a little different at each school, but the end goal is the same: helping students navigate social, emotional and behavioral challenges in the often-tumultuous, intensive growth period of the middle school years. See below for details on who to reach out to if you have concerns about your child.
Maplewood Middle School
▫ School Counselors – The best place to start for any student. Each class is assigned a counselor who will follow them through 8th grade: Kelli Dios, April Battle or Kevin Philemon.
▫ If you child has an IEP or 504 Plan, it’s a good idea to include their CST Case Manager or MMS 504 Coordinator Louis Brown.
▫ Other contacts – Your child’s Team Leader or their grade-level administrator (Ms Gronau, Mr King, or Mr Brown).
▫ The Hub – A grant-funded program that provides a safe space for all MMS students. Click here for the flyer, here for even more info and here for the consent form. Please reach out to Program Coordinator Caroline Raba with any questions.
▫ More detail about specific roles and contact info for everyone mentioned above can be found in the 2022-2023 MMS Student & Family Handbook.
South Orange Middle School
▫ Social Work Intern Program – Supervised by Alison Steiner, LCSW, the social work intern program (SWIP) provides SOMS students with a wide variety of counseling and community-building opportunities to support their social/emotional health needs. Please fill out this request form if you have concerns and would like to connect with someone on the team. If you have questions about the intern program or mental health support at SOMS in general, please reach out to Alison Steiner.
▫ If you child has an IEP or 504 Plan, it’s a good idea to include their CST Case Manager or SOMS 504 Coordinator James Waldron.
▫ Other contacts – Your child’s Guidance Counselor, who will follow them through 8th Grade (Lauren Walsh or Paul Singh), or their Team Leader.
▫ Please check the 2022-2023 SOMS Student Handbook for more details and contact information.
ISTEP (In-School Therapeutic Educational Program)
▫ ISTEP is a counseling program for students with more significant social, emotional, and/or behavioral challenges. An IEP or 504 Plan is NOT required to participate, but program capacity is limited. If you have questions after watching the video or reviewing the ISTEP slide presentation, please reach out to Amy Pitucco at MMS or Michael Zarabi at SOMS.
SEPAC SOMA Middle School Liaisons
▫ MMS – Cristy Mendoza and Amanda Cercone
▫ SOMS – Kelly Mortimer
- “Middle School & Mental Health” Slide Presentation
- “The Hub @ MMS” Slide Presentation
- “ISTEP” Slide Presentation
- SOMSD Special Services Overview (a comprehensive presentation by Susie Budine, October 2022) – for more detailed info about Tiered Supports and Intervention & Referral Services (I&RS), skip to 6:20
- Suggested resources from the “Mental Health & Middle School” presentation:
○ Child Mind Institute – Anxiety Disorders Center
○ Child Mind Institute – Quick Guide to Anxiety in Children
○ Child Mind Institute – What to Do (and Not Do) When Children Are Anxious
○ Child Mind Institute – Thinking Errors
○ Rapee, R.M., Spence, S.H., Cobham, V., & Wignall, A. (2008) Helping Your Anxious Child: A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents, Second Edition
○ Huebner, Dawn (2008) What to Do When You Worry Too Much
- NJ Children’s System of Care/PerformCare Flyer (English/Spanish)
- PerformCare Fact Sheet (by SEPAC SOMA, January 2022)