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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Parent's Role

Parents and school psychologists should maintain a solid connection to optimize their child's education and socialization in the school. Before any interventions can take place, the two parties must be on somewhat of the same page when deciding the best course of action for the child.

-Are strong ties between the parents and school psychologist a necessity for achievement in the academic setting?

-What happens if at home the parents are not a strong influence in their child's life? What can the school psychologist do?

-What are some ways to strengthen the relationship between parents and school psychologists?

-How do you go about differentiating opinions between parents and school psychologists when deciding interventions and recommendations for a child?

-What are some ways that we as school psychologists can educate and simplify the procedures and information given to parents new to the child study team process so they can better understand?

In our experience, we have found that some parents' ideas for the direction their child should take in school seem to be in direct opposition to what the school psychologists know from years of experience and training. Other times, a parent really has no opinion on the matter and lets the school psychologist take control of the situation with little to no objections. Many times, the parents fall between these two extremes. When working with someone's child, school psychologists must be sensitive to parents' thoughts and feelings about their child because we may present a piece of information that they do not want to hear. How can we as school psychologists effectively work with parents to help their child exceed to the best of their capabilities?

This Blog was created by Joey Schweighardt and Julian Castellanos.


KojeT said...

Oftentimes I notice people try to stay "under the radar" so they are not asked to perform additional tasks. I think the more people you get to know, the better. In my opinion, part of the job of a school psychologist is to make themselves available to parents and make parents aware that they are there to help their children. While this might become a bit tedious, it helps form long term relationships with parents. This in turn should make it easier to make suggestions to the parents and they might be more open to the changes you are trying to make in their child's life.

You can't just come out of the woodwork and say here I am and I am going to save your kid, you have to work at building that relationship and having the parent trust you.

Unfortunately, school psychologists are usually bombarded with other things that this is usually in the back-burner.

Confucius said: "choose a job that you love, and you'll never work a day in your life".

Julian said...

I agree with what you say. There has to be a special connection between the parent and the school psychologist in order for the child to later be successful. Like you said you can not just say that you are there to save the child, but sometimes that is what parents expect right away and that is not how it works. Forming a relationship between the parent and psychologist is key. Then in turn comes the trust. Once this happens, then the work for each, the parent and psychologist, gets easier. Another thing, I love that quote, it couldn't be more true. If you love what you are doing then it does not feel like work.

Monique said...

I agree , with these comments. I think that the psychologist and the parents need to establish a relationship and have open lines of communication at all times. However, what happens when the parent does not speak English??? I see this all the time at my practicum site..Parents and psychologists have trouble communicating due to language barriers... Everytime they want to communicate they have to ask someone who speaks the language to interpret and the rapport between the psychologist and the parent can get lost.....

Julian said...

You brought up a great point Monique. I too see the same thing at my practicum where I have to translate for the parents who do not speak or understand English. Forming this relationship definitely would take time and this would be a huge barrier. It is like we mentioned in one of our classes, this would be where we would have to bring in bilingual school psychologists and make the field more multicultural.

Kasandra said...

A strong relationship is definitely important. The school psychologist I work with told me that her advisor during her internship told her no to make herself too available because people will take advantage of her. She has not followed this advice and she puts herself out there to teachers and parents as much as possible. And the wonderful thing is that it shows. The parents know who she is and trust that she wants the best for their children. And the children all know who she is, even the ones who don't go and see her. This is great because it makes it less scary for the students who are just starting to see her. And while she may have parents calling her all the time about everything, it does make it much easier when it comes to her advocating for certain services; the parents have a tendency to agree and not give her a tough time.

@Monique: I agree that the language barrier is a huge issue. From talking to our other classmates, I know that all of us who speak other languages have been used as translators at our practicum sites. It makes you wonder what they do for communication otherwise!

Julian said...

At the practicum, I also have noticed that there are parents who knwo who the school psychologist is and they get along and understand each other. I also see parents who do not even know where to find the school psychologist. This shows that there may not be a relationship at all between the parents and the school psychologist.

There was a great point that has been brought up. My brother, who is a school psychologist, tells me that when he sees the students walking around, they always greet him and just feel comfortable around him. There should also be a strong relationship between school psychologist and the students. I believe that once this is established then the student will feel more comfortable to open up about any problems that they are or have been having. From this possibly a friendship may form.

cyndi said...

At my practicum the entire child study team is in a different building in town so children who are not receiving services and their parents, have no clue who the school psychologist even is or what he does. I tell people that have graduated with me what I'm going to school for and their like oh like "mrs. so and so" and I'm like no, that's the drug and substance abuse counselor, and then explain what a school psychologist is, CST, etc. So I do feel good that I am able to at least reach out to some people already and make them aware of the CST and what a school psychologist is in case they or someone they know, may need services down the road. I also did not know what a school psychologist was, nor ever met ours, until I started taking courses and started my practicum. It's crazy. At my practicum, they call themselves the "phantom" because no one knows who they are. And your proud of that?

I think building relationships and making people aware of who you are and what you do with the community, school staff, students, and parents, is an integral part of a school psychologist's job.

When you have the trust of the parent, they will believe that you do have the best interest in their child's academic success, even when it goes against what they had in mind for their child's placement. School Psychologists have to think about what is good for the child today and down the road; most of the time parents and teachers may not be able to process this and must trust a professional's decision. Sometimes it might be a trial and error process when deciding to leave a child back, place them in inclusive classrooms, provide them certain special education services and interventions. The school psychologist continues to try new things, until the child's academic success results in an increase and is comfortable in his/her setting. The school psychologist and parent work as a team throughout this process.

Joey said...

It is funny to think though that looking back on my high school careers I never met or even heard of who my school's school psychologist was. Granted I never had an IEP or went through serious emotional times but I think its important to make yourself known to your school. You never know when a dire situation will occur but by being present in the school/ community as a school psychologist will make it easier when these situations do pop up so parents, students, and teachers can better ease into the relationship that will occur when services begin.

Cyndi- What if you have not had time to gain the trust needed to give an opinion that may differ than what the parent has in mind? Do you give your opinion and wait it out until the parent comes around to your view?

What level of trust is required in order to give information that may differ from what the parent believes?

Kevin said...

i think that the relationship between school psychologist and parent is very important as long as the professionalism and friendliness of the relationship can be kept in check. if parents feel so comfortable with you they will feel comfortable enough to ask favors of you and that is just the first example of numerous situations that can arise if you become too close. that might make me sound cynical but I believe that most good things come with balance and that a good psychologist-parent relationship needs that balance.
i do still believe it is a very important relationship because when goals are set for a student in an IEP if there are strategies in place for the student and these strategies are only enforced at school and the student does not have to follow the same strategy at home what type of message does it send. the parents need to be on board with what the school is doing to help their child. at my job this is my first year in this class room as an aide so as i am getting to know the students the teachers are also telling me about them. one student who is returning from last year after only one month off of the program for summer he went from getting better and using his words to communicate regularly back to being basically nonverbal because the practices set up in the school environment were not continued at home.
the way i see it once a child is classified the parents of that child become part of their child's team, and i think one of the best ways to get parents involved is to let them know how important they really are to the process and how much their efforts can help their child progress towards their goals.

Joey said...

Kevin- that's a perfect example of how parenting can negate a lot of what is done by the school in order to help a child. How frustrating must that be for the professionals who continue to work with the child to go back and teach things that were taught previously. This also gets in the way of the child going forward. If you're regressing and standing still with your academic development, you are unable to progress and reach certain goals and objectives that are attainable. While at the school, school psychologists can only do so much, but this is only a portion of the day! And with all the time off in the summer, certain cases need special attention. There must be some kind of support outside or the child will be in standstill.

Toyin said...

Kevin, I'm glad you brought up the issue of having to reteach concepts previously taught to the teach due to lack of reinforcement in the summer/@ home. In some other parts of the world, the students do not get 2 months off for summer, they get about a month off at the most and get short breaks in-between the school year to address this issue. In other parts of the world, teachers come together and organize affordable summer school camps for kids in order to reinforce what was taught through the school year. Teachers also send progress reports home to parents in the summer to help them understand where their children are and what they need to work on before the new school year starts. Students are supposed to come back to school having worked on these missing links in the summer, so that they can be caught up with other students, hence, making the teachers life easy and the student does not feel lost or like they've fallen behind.
Most of these countries I speak of are third world countries in Africa and Asia. It sounds like we can learn a few things from these systems.

While some parents do similar things here in the United States, I find that most people tend to do more recreational things with their kids. Other parents might also not have the financial resources to enroll their children in educational summer programs or are not aware of the ones available to them. I think teachers and school psychologists need to work with families to help identify resources available so that everyone's lives can be a bit easier come the following school year. I think it's easier to tell a parent, your kid needs to learn more math and "MathGuru" (made that up) is a great program you should enroll him/her in. Here's their contact information.

Monique said...

Here is the thing that I see with relationships between school psychologists and parents...In affluent communities where there are more educated families there tends to be more lawsuits and parents who know their rights and fight to get what they want from the child study team/school district. My practicum site isn't in the most affluent area and the parents don't really understand what's going on because they are uneducated, they don't speak english, they just moved to this country etc etc... These parents are so grateful! They appreciate anything that you do for their child. All they do is say thank you a million times over and ask what they can do to help...

Joey said...

Monique- Interesting point. The school district I am in is the complete opposite. You hear about court cases and advocates being called in to make sure everything is going smoothly. Personally, I have seen a parent give thanks for what is being done then completely change their tune a couple days later in an email or phone call that sends a different message than what was said earlier in the week. You obviously have to treat every case individually but you can see how this process of dealing with parents can be so frustrating!

School psychologists must show a great amount of patience and a strong ability to hold back from saying something due to frustration. These two abilities can go a long way to respect the parents wishes and also gain the respect of parents, teachers, and colleagues. If meetings get heated, maintaining your cool in front of the parent and offering level-headed advice may be beneficial to the parent down the road and many times a colleague will see how professional you are.

Nicole said...

I think everyone has an interesting opinion on this topic. One thing I did not see being brought up as I read through everyone's posts is this: What if the parents are, in a sense, unreachable? At my practicum site, several of the parents either are completely unable to take part in what is going on with their child (single parent working crazy hours, etc) or they are not in their own right state of mind themselves. Sometimes, they clearly do not even care what is going on with their child. Language barriers are not the only barriers which can occur between the school psychologists and the parents!
I also agree with the fact that school psychologists should be KNOWN throughout the school. Most people I know have no idea who the school psychologists in my district are, or what they do. I too, have people tell me they always thought the SAC (or another professional) was the school psychologist.

Kyra said...

I think it's important for the school psychologist and the parent to be on the same page, but there also needs to be a clearly defined boundary between the psychologist's ethical responsibilities to the child and their readiness to make the parents happy. I've witnessed several instances in which parents struggled with the idea of their children receiving special education services. They push for their children to be declassified or to receive fewer or less obvious modifications, and many times it can be difficult to convince them of the benefits of keeping their children in their current placements. My question is this: how can a school psychologist best balance parents' concerns with their children's needs? Is it always best to take the ethical path of pursuing what is right for the child, or will that create such distance between the psychologist and the parents that essentially nothing can be accomplished?

Amber said...

@ Nicole
I had an experience recently in an IEP meeting where the mother and father had just split up and EVERYTHING was up in the air including living situations, jobs, money, etc. It was all the mother could do to even be available to her children during the week and she was the childrens’ only advocate by being actively involved in learning about their IEP’s, placements and learning abilities. During the meeting the main focus of the teachers was that homework was not being completed at home. In my opinion, the teachers piggy-backed on each other because they all had an issue with incomplete hw, however, I think this is as a cop-out. The child remained very motivated and would sometimes even volunteer to stay in from recess to do homework that would be due the following day. I wanted to hear the teachers say more things like “This is what we can do to alleviate some of these things at home and to teach him these things in school temporarily…” Each teacher was only requiring 10 minutes of hw each night. Is it not possible to give him 10 minutes of class time to review the material while the class does something else?? I wanted the teachers to take control and take responsibility in providing the best possible education without expecting or needing anything from anyone else. I agree that parental support is invaluable, but I think the education within the classroom should be able to stand on its own and not require anything outside because many children don’t have those benefits.

It got me thinking… maybe homework should be eliminated entirely. Maybe it should be just for extra credit? Maybe it should only be required when children are old enough and responsible enough to do it themselves without any help remembering to bring it home, remembering to DO it, remembering to check it…etc.

This was slightly off topic of school psychologists fostering beneficial relationships with parents, but if we can come up with more strategies that alleviate the stress on parents of having to contribute to their child’s education because it can stand on its own, then it would help the kids who don’t have that support to begin with, and maybe also give parents who are able to be actively involved the space to do so with programs that perhaps benefit the whole class.

Julian said...

A great question arose. What happens if the parent is unreachable? Unfortunately there are parents who can not be 100% on top of what is going on in the child's life due to different circumstances. But, on other hand there may be parents that can also be inexistent in the child's life. I have seen this in my practicum where the parent does not play a major role in the child's life and does not see or want what is best for the child. I have seen that some parents do not even send their children to school. I ask, how do they then expect the school psychologist or a teacher to help and educate the child? I think this is where legal matters may have to take place to get the parent to understand that a child needs to be cared for and educated, and that the number one place for this to happen is at the school.

Joey said...

Amber- Your thoughts about eliminating hw are interesting (Something that I would have loved during my school years). While I think hw can create problems for children whose parents are not around, there still needs to be the support. Classes in m.s. and h.s. are only so long. I believe you need supplemental support. What I have heard is that in some classes, math for example, the teacher assigns homework that is expected to be complete, but it is not checked for right answers. Obviously the material on the hw will be graded eventually because the test questions will be bases on what the hw was on. This is one way to take away some of the stress that hw brings. Have students try their best and if the grades aren't there, the students really must work with the teacher and monitor themselves to make sure they are growing and learning. The other blog this week certainly talks about how to strengthen classroom techniques in order for out of school work to ease in some regard.

Joey said...

"My question is this: how can a school psychologist best balance parents' concerns with their children's needs?"

Kyra, the question you raised is one that has been on my mind during my practicum which helped think of some of the thoughts in what went to creating this blog post. I think that parents have the say in the end because they are the parent. However, we must do our jobs and make sure the child is growing the best they can. If parents disagree, things certainly get tricky. How do you balance this? I say stay connected to the parent. Stay aware of what the child is doing. Always be up on what the teachers say about the child and when things seem as if they are not progressing, we must present our documented evidence to them in a sensitive way. The information we are giving may really hurt the parent. If they do not agree, in my little experience I have, I really do not know. I say be patient. The teachers of a parents child must help out our cause if opinions differ. Parents may have a favorite teacher and if you can get that teacher or another respected opinion to give the same differing opinion the school psychologist is, it may chip away at the wall getting in the way of the right treatment.

Julian- the mere mention of legal matters definitely makes me uneasy, it would be interesting to see a legal process and how it works since this experience is new to us.

Jennifer said...

Wow, everyone has given me so much to think about. I feel that parent/ school psychologist/ CST relationships are very tricky.

Most of the parents that I have seen start out working with the CST in good faith. It is after they are not seeing improvements that their skepticism grows and they lose faith in the CST team. At this point it I have seen it become a battle between the CST and the parent. This relationship only hinders the child since now simple discussion such as placement turn into battles. In such cases change and progress take much longer than if the parent and the CST had a good working relationship.

I, like Joey, have seen parents leave expressing their thanks and send an e-mail the next day saying they felt ambushed by those that went out of their way to help them the best way they could. I am in an affluent district where parents are educated, do not trust "the system", and are always on alert for things that can be turned into a legal battle. It is very difficult to gain the trust of these parents.

I think the best strategy is Kevin's, try your best to make sure the parents feel they are part of the team. The rapport established with parents can be your best weapon against a law suit. Parents view you differently if they feel you are doing your best to help their child.

Nicole said...

I fully agree that parents should be made to be part of the team. However, as I said earlier (and others also mentioned) this can be difficult. Although a lot of responsibility should definitely fall on the professionals in school, it can of course only be helpful it the parents are on board. I think that homework is something which should be implemented. Of course, not a lot, but it can definitely help those students who do not focus enough or take in enough material during class time. It should of course be modified where necessary for certain students. For example, with the story given about the student wanting to complete hw during lunch time -- that should have definitely been allowed in my opinion. In the cases where the parents are not/cannot be involved, accommodations need to be made in order to ensure the student has the best learning experience possible.

LISA said...

Parental involvement is essential to student success. At my practicum site I spoke with one of the school psychologists who spoke of the stark difference between urban areas and affluent areas. When she worked in Morristown she said back to school night was standing room only and parents brought lawyers to IEP meetings. These parents were aware of their rights and pushed to receive whateva they were entitled to. Now working in Hillside she said back to school nite is like a ghost town. Teachers can sit all night and maybe have two parents stop by out of 40 kids. THATS A PROBLEM!!
I agree there are many situations which prevent 100% parental involvement.
Also nobody mentioned generational influences. If grandma, mom, dad, uncles, etc never finished high school often times there is a lack of understanding of the importance of knowing what your child is doing in school.
@ Joey
I also never knew who the school psychologist was in my school or that they existed. I feel school psychologist existence should be known to ALL students! This make building relationships with students and parents later on easier because you wont be a complete stranger

Gabrielle Walker said...

When I was in High School I didn’t even know what a school psychologist was, or that one was available to help students for free. I think school psychologists, and social workers need to make their presence known in schools. School psychologist should try to have a relationship with the student body. It is important that students know who they are, what they do, and how they can be of assistance.
I believe that strong ties are important between the school psychologist and parents in the academic setting. Both parties need to be able to work together in order to best serve the student. They can strengthen their relationship by having an open dialogue and establishing trust. I think school psychologist need to make sure they explain to students that there main purpose is to help and not judge or criticize students. If the students don’t trust the psychologist they will be more hesitant about discussing their problems. While if the parents don’t trust the school psychologist they will be less willingly to take their advice.

Gabrielle Walker

Julie Torres said...

Regarding the different ideas of parenting styles I found each description very interesting. As soon as I read each type of parenting style I could definitely name a hand full of people I know personally who either are those types of parents or have been risen by those type of parents. The parenting style I most agree with is authoritative, they seem to have a balance and good idea of what a child needs. These types of parents make it clear to the children that THEY are the ones in charge, but still provide a sufficient amount of love and care to their children. They are not too power hungry and know that their children still need affection and nurture. Some parents lose sight of their role and either become the child's "friend" or the child's "bully" which is neither role which should be played by a parent. As I sit here and criticize these other parenting styles, I wonder if I am being hypocritical. My next point is in regards to different cultures. Perhaps these other two parenting style I do not agree with have developed through a culture I am not familiar with. My parents, immigrating to the U.S. from Ecuador, have often told me many stories in which they were horrified about the parenting styles involving my sisters classmates. When they came here from Ecuador, my two older sisters were only 3 & $ years old. As they grew up they saw how different American parents treated and allowed their children to do things they would never even consider. This could have been because they were a bit overprotective as most foreigners are. By the time I came into the picture my parents were more Americanized and I saw the way they treated and handled different situations with me was no different than the experiences my friends had with their parents. They had now adjusted to the norm.

Sidney Whitfield said...

"Parents and school psychologists should maintain a solid connection to optimize their child's education and socialization in the school." I couldnt agree more with this comment.Usually a parent and school solid connection happens one of two ways. Either the parents has a genuine concern and interest in their childs education from day one or somethings happens (usually not so good) that calls for the parents attention, but if its not something that is priority to the parent then their involvement is shortlived. With that being said, a good way to keep the connection is gaining a connection at the start of the childs institutional education (school setting.)

Michelle Montoya said...

I find it to be very important the influence that parents have on their children, even though some parents may leave their children's upbringing to their teachers. If parents and teachers work together with the education and discipline of their children, they wouldn't have to worry much about their children's future. Today many parents have so much work that they forget about whats really important, which is the future of their children.