Who's Outside the Box

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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