Who's Outside the Box

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Graduate School Separation Anxiety

For many of us, it is the close of the semester and we have hashed out all of our likes and dislikes for the field. Some of us have cried, some have revealed our insecurities, while others continue to struggle within themselves. The operative word here is WE. We have had each other for support, brainstorming and the like.

But what do we do when we get out there in the big bad world when WE becomes I? It is easy to say, attend conferences or call a colleague, but in the real world when life just gets in the way, how will we keep our selves in check? How will we know that we REALLY are doing the right thing working OUTSIDE THE BOX (which is in direct opposition to most practitioners)?

This blog was created by Christen Sylvester

The Impact of Globalization on Education

The flattening or globalization of the world has significant implications for education. For one, we have already begun to use workflow software in-place of humans in many industries. In fact, on-line learning has become increasingly more popular. Students can easily opt for home schooling, thus on-line curriculums, lesson plans, teaching resources and media are readily available and easily accessible by most people today. Another important implication comes from outsourcing. Friedman (author of The World is Flat) writes about the ever increasing option for manufacturers to find unskilled, cheap labor outside of the U.S. Those who are unskilled in the U.S. will have greater difficulty finding jobs in the U.S. as a result of this trend. As a result, the importance of education in this country can not be emphasized enough. In order for Americans to survive in this country, they will need to learn a skill and continue to become educated. Further, globalization has increased competition and has raised the bar for creativity and ingenuity.

It appears that American children of today will be facing greater competition for jobs in the future. So what happens to our special needs children in this growing global economy? Special education has not proven to restore cognitive functioning and academic achievement; in fact quite the opposite appears to happen to children in special education. These students grow increasingly further behind their average age peers and often drop out of high school all together. Jobs that were once available in this country for uneducated and unskilled Americans appear to be disappearing across the seas at an alarming rate. What is not being outsourced is being taken over by technology. Interestingly, Friedman in his book mentions that some McDonalds in the United States have outsourced the drive thru position to overseas!

What are we doing to ensure the futures of our special needs children? In your opinion, has the special education curriculum taken into consideration globalization and the impact it will have on its students? In your experience, have you seen special needs children improve academically or do they appear to fall further behind? How do you think this will affect their ability to secure employment? If you had the power to change special education, what would you change and why?

This blog was created by Rosa DeAngelis

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Resiliency: The Bobo Doll of Success

Recently, in one of my classes, we've been discussing resiliency. Prior to reading any of the literature, I had always thought of resilience as a gift certain people are just born with, like an aptitude for math or athletic ability. To my surprise, resilience is influenced by both environmental as well as genetic factors. A big external influence on resilience is having a relationship with a caring adult.

From what I saw during my practicum experience, it seems to me that caring adults gravitate toward particular students rather than the students turning to them for help. Further, I feel that the students usually evoke a positive response from the adult due to a high aptitude or ability that the adult also has an interest in. For example, the head football coach mentors the best player because he sees his athletic potential, and maybe that vote of confidence transfers to other aspects of that student's life in order to help him succeed. The bad part of all this is that I feel that the students who are consistently average or even below average go unnoticed because they don't have that one standout characteristic.

As you head out in the field, do you think it's possible to play the role of the caring adult for students who may go by the wayside because they do not possess an outstanding skill or quality? Further, do you think that you'll be able to sell yourself in a way that the child truly believes that you believe in him or her? Or, do you think that children will be able to see right through you?

The blog was created by Vincent Balestrieri

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The World in our Hands

According to APA, Psychological service providers need a socio-cultural framework to consider diversity of values, interactional styles, and cultural expectations in a systematic fashion. They need knowledge and skills for multicultural assessment and intervention, including abilities to:

1. Recognize cultural diversity.

2. Understand the role that culture and ethnicity/race play in the socio-psychological and economic development of ethnic and culturally diverse populations.

3. Understand that socioeconomic and political factors significantly impact the psychosocial, political and economic development of ethnic and culturally diverse groups.

4. Help clients to understand/maintain/resolve their own sociocultural identification; and understand the interaction of culture, gender, and sexual orientation on behavior and needs.

In previous classes, we discussed how the ethnic breakdown of school psychologists is predominantly Caucasian women compared to the diverse and ever changing population that they serve. Taking that into consideration it definitely triggers an alarm that we need to educate ourselves and continuously re-educate ourselves on the customs, beliefs, religious values, and level of acculturation of our clients. But is that enough to ensure that our clients continuously receive the best care? Do you think that you are prepared to enter a culturally diverse school system and provide each student with the appropriate care without bias?

NASP defines cultural competence as a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals and enables that system, agency, or those professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations. How can you prepare yourself during the practicum and internship experiences to achieve a level of cultural competence?

This blog was created by Katie Blades.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Let Me Get Back to You...

Today I had a parent come to school crying and wanting to talk to us, the child study team, about her son. He is a high functioning autistic boy in Kindergarten. She picks up her son at school everyday and discusses her son’s progress with his teacher. His teacher does not agree with his placement. He is currently mainstreamed with pull-out resource room and a full-time personal aid. The teacher reports to mom her difficulty with keeping the child engaged, seated, and from doing whatever he wants. The teacher comes into the meeting and she’s persuading us to reconsider his placement. Mom continues to cry and repeatedly voices her apologies to the teacher for her son’s inability to listen.

As the school psychologist, the faces around the room (including the principal who’s joined the meeting) are looking in my direction for answers. I know nothing about this child, so I immediately start trying to gather information. I ask mom if she also has the same problems that his teacher voices and ask her how she works with her son at home during homework assignments, transitioning from play to bedtime, etc. Mom allows him to throw a tantrum and then spends a great deal of time cajoling him from the floor with prizes and promises to prepare for bed or whatever is on the agenda. The teacher looks to me and says things like, “I can’t just let him throw a fit on the carpet, he’ll distract other kids, it’s not fair to the other students to keep rewarding him, for allowing him to do whatever he wants, etc.”

I ask for more time to at least observe the child, for the team to evaluate his placement, and determine if there are any interventions that can be put in place. The principal defends the teacher by saying, “You all are here only 1 day a week, we are on break next week, so we won’t see you guys again until 2 weeks…in the meantime, the teacher has to deal with these issues and the student loses out on education.”

I have observed autistic kids in classroom settings, but I have never directly worked with an autistic child. I have read the basics on autism, but I do not have a repertoire of skills to use immediately as this teacher and principal wanted. How do we handle situations where we really don’t know how to deal with a particular student or an issue? I tried the, “let me get back to you” and luckily we were able to convince the parent, teacher, and principal that we needed more time and it was in the child’s best interest.

As new psychologists, do you feel that we have been prepared to handle situations like the one presented here from our educational program? Do believe that your externship will give you the tools you need to handle situations where you have absolutely no hands on experience with a particular disorder and decisions are needed immediately?

This blog was created by Rosa DeAngeles

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

School Psych-Technologist

Listen to Mike Cole's gcast on Technology for School Psychologists...

Where do you stand?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Is it fair that the squeaky wheel gets the grease?

According to Mental Health America, "recent studies show that, at any given time, as many as one in every 33 children may have clinical depression. The rate of depression among adolescents may be as high as one in eight." (Department of Health and Human Services). As a school psychology candidate, I've had the chance to observe crisis intervention, individual and group counseling and socio-emotional assessments of many students. From what I've seen, there has been more focus in the school setting on assessment and intervention of externalizing behaviors, such as conduct disorder. Perhaps, however, other school psychologists and candidates have seen otherwise at their schools or practicum sites.

If you read up on depression in children and adolescents, you'll find that many of the symptoms or warning signs of depression exhibited by students are difficult to observe on a day to day basis because many of them are internalized. It is especially difficult to identify in adolescents because it is normal for them to experience constant ups and downs associated with external stressors and biological changes. An adolescent may present as depressed one day and elated another. Although this is typical teen behavior, it makes identifying depression much more difficult for school psychologists, teachers and parents.

On a personal note, in my hometown there have been a number of adolescent suicides in the past year. One of the incidences involved a local student who was a friend of my youngest brother and another happened to be my best friend's younger brother. Most suicide attempts are closely associated with depression. Since the issue hits close to home for me, I take it very seriously and think it's a matter worth addressing in the field. I'd like to hear feedback from current or future school psychologists on the following: Have you seen externalized behaviors addressed more frequently in your schools than internalizing behaviors? If so, is it fair that externalized behavior gets more attention from teachers and school psychologists? Are there better ways to identify depressed students and address their needs? How do you plan to balance the focus between both types of behavior?

This blog was created by Vincent Balestrieri.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

In a certain Public School District, the school psychologist pay chart is listed immediately after the teacher pay chart, in the teacher’s union contract booklet. Are school psychologists teachers? Don’t the extent of school psychologists’ educational preparation and the vastness of the professional responsibility, in contrast to that of a classroom teacher, warrant a specialized union with a specialized contract? Do school systems not value school psychologists?

If the school psychology pay chart is listed in the teacher contract booklet, then school psychologists are governed by that contract, as if they are teachers. But who bargains for the rights of the school psychologist’s specific needs? What happens when the rights of the school psychologist are infringed upon, or a legal matter arises? Working with students in a law-suit-crazed society is a frightening scenario! Who has the expertise to represent the school psychologist?

The main benefit of labor unions: members contribute to the decisions that govern their daily practice. The downside: controversy. Unions have been blamed for protecting poor workers, and accused of limiting innovation and entrepreneurship.

Should school psychologists have their own unions – national and local – as teachers do? Or should they remain as they are - considered teachers?

This blog was created by Judy Lamanna

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Less Reactive, More Proactive: Violence Prevention and Crisis Management

The recent estimate of school associated violent deaths is 14 homicides and 3 suicides. An estimated 1.5 million non-fatal crimes have occurred at school, 628,200 violent crimes (simple assault to serious injury) have been committed. According to the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES), 86% of our public schools report that at least one violent crime occurred at their facility during the 2005-2006 school year.

The crimes include physical assault on a student or staff member with or without a weapon, threats of injury with or without a weapon to self or to others, possession of weapons, sexual harassment, verbal abuse and bullying, and terroristic threats.

Most public schools employ a Zero Tolerance Policy to remove student offenders. If a student with an educational disability is the perpetrator of the offence, IEP teams are called upon at this point to possibly intervene with an FBA and BIP. In addition to post-violence intervention, what actions can/should the school psychologist take in the prevention of violent behavior school wide?

Likewise for crisis management – the procedures followed immediately after an incidence or threat of violence. School psychologists play an important role as a school-based mental health professional and a link to family and the community during and after a crisis situation. What measures can the school psychologist take to reduce the number of crisis situations? Can school psychologists help school systems become more proactive in regard to crisis and violence, thereby maintaining a safe haven of academic achievement and social growth? What are the ethical and legal implications of dealing with crises and violent crimes within the schools?

This blog was created by Judy Lamanna

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Facing the Virtual Reality of Bullying

Cyberbullying may involve the use of instant messaging (IM), small text messages (SMS), email, chat rooms or bash boards, websites, and voting booths. Because of the anonymity, children are more likely to say things that they would never say face-to-face. There is no escape from this type of bullying because it occurs twenty four hours a day. A victim feels more vulnerable and alone because the emotional damage lasts a lot longer than a black eye.

The story of thirteen year old Alex from Virginia cannot be forgotten. Like other teenagers, Alex spent a lot of time on the computer. Unfortunately, during this time, a group of girls teased and tormented him about his size and physical ability through an instant messaging service. In June 2004, Alex shot himself with his grandfather's gun. This suicide was linked to cyberbullying after searching his computer because all files had been deleted except a note stating, "The only way to get the respect you deserve is to die." How many other students have to die before schools nationwide acknowledge and prevent this form of bullying?

School districts often find themselves caught between their legal and moral obligation to provide a safe environment that promotes learning and their students' constitutional right to freedom of speech and privacy. The popularity of social networking is rapidly increasing. Myspace.com currently has more than one hundred million members and similar sites are continuously popping up. This makes one point very clear: this issue is not going away. What can we do as school psychologists to prevent cyberbullying in schools and homes without infringing on the student's constitutional rights?

This Blog was created by Katie Blades.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

RTI: What about US?

Twenty percent of pre-school aged children exhibit moderate to clinically significant emotional and behavioral difficulties, which will ultimately place them at greater risk for disruption of the learning process. While policy changes of the 21st century are moving toward a Response to Intervention (RTI) in order to better serve these students, what is happening to the children that are placed in districts where the typical assessment procedures remain? Shouldn’t school psychologists work with children during the critical period of development and learning?

Are these students simply stuck inside the box along with the practitioners who guide them? It is likely that by the time RTI is adopted across the nation, many students will have graduated without the necessary tools that prepare them for a career or higher learning. With this frightening reality in mind, how will School Psychologists, school administrators and the like justify their decision to remain inside the box?
(This Blog was created by Christen M. Sylvester)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We Make a Difference

School Psychology Awareness Week
November 10-14, 2008.

Recently I was saddened by a conversation I had with a fellow school psychologist when I was told "there isn't enough time to celebrate everyone." Needless to say, that school was not participating or even acknowledging School Psychology Awareness Week. 

I would like to know that we, a select few, are not the only ones who believe that school psychologists make a difference. How is your district embracing this week and what are you doing to bring awareness to others?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Box is Open

It is so easy to act within the confines of our education. We practice what we learn, do as we are told, and become what "they" make of us. And when we can't keep up with the solutions, we reinvent the problem. Here we are, outside the box, in search of answers, new perspectives, and the willingness to raise difficult questions. 

The Box is Open...what does it mean to be a school psychologist outside the box?