Read, Run, Repeat

A tale of fitness, books, food, and life in between

What the heck is a School Psychologist?

on September 11, 2012

The topic of this post is kinda over-due, but I figured that Sepetember was a good time to get it written, since school is now back in session! I have mentioned on several occassions that I am a school psychologist… most people have no idea what it is that I do 🙂 (I apologize in advance that this turned into quite a long post!)

To be honest, every day is different – and I like that!! Also, my “job description” varies greatly from what a traditional school psychologist role looks like, as both of my jobs have been in school environments that have not been “traditional.” I used to work for a BOCES program with students who had a wide variety of social-emotional, behavioral, and acadmic needs; their respective school districts did not have an appropriate classroom setting, so they were sent to us to learn in a smaller, more structured environment. Currently, I work in a non-profit school that has a reputation for instructing children who are on the Autism spectrum, but we also serve kiddos with other developmental disabilities, and our program is also integrated, which means we also have typical students in our population!! Most of my students now are preschoolers, although wealso have 2 school-age classrooms as well. This is different from a traditional school psychologist who serves one (or usually multiple) different schools within a district. So, that’s a little background 🙂

Probably the most interesting part of this post, is why I am a school psychologist.  If you’ve read my “About Me” section, you know that I have a younger brother, Craig, who was born with Down syndrome. Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition that is associated with intellectual disability, a characteristic facial appearance, weak muscle tone, various birth defects and health issues, and overall developmental delays. Craig and I are six years apart, so special education has been a part of our family life, and my life, as long as I can remember. I am a fierce advocate for those with special needs, and being Craig’s siser has most definitely defined who I am.

Craig and I 🙂

Moving on. My national organization describes me as “School psychologists help children and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. They collaborate with educators, parents, and other professionals to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments that strengthen connections between home, school, and the community for all students.”

That’s a great overview, but it doesn’t really describe what I do.  I’m going to try my best to break it down into the different components that I perform on any given day

Evaluations: This is, by far, the largest part of my job. I am responsible for administering standardized tests and instruments that measure cognitive abilities and social-emotional skills, and I also sometimes use measures that screen for delays in the areas of communication, adpative behavior, and motor skills. I conduct evaluations for the students who are enrolled in our school, and we also have an evaluation clinic where our evaluation team assesses children who are supected of developmental delays. In these cases, the team assesses the student’s skills and decides whether they would benefit from various special education services (part of this decision comes from federal and state regulations). The test results are also utilized to develop learning prgrams that target a child’s weaknesses and build on his/her strengths.  Along with the evaluations comes writing lengthy reports,  Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), attending meetings, and talking with families and school districts. I am also responsbile for the billing portion as well.

(source)

Counseling: This is the best part of my job, and I’m so glad that I have more children on my caseload this year! At my school, I see students individually and in groups to work on social skills (sharing, taking turns, listening to others, being a good friend), coping skills, identifying emotions, and interacting with others. This is the aspect of my job where I get to be creative, and I also find it to be the most rewarding! I also travel to different preschools for “psychological consult” services. This is to help classrooms and teachers develop strategies and behavior plans to handle challenging students. I sometimes do this in the child’s home as well.

Parent Training/Support: At my current job, I assist in planning and conducting various parent training sessions in the evening, and I also help faciliatate the parent support group. Sadly, neither of these groups have typically been well attended over the 18 mos that I have been here – (so if anyone has any ideas to increase attendance, please share!) One of my most favorite trainings that I have lead is helping parents create visual supports for the home and community setting (these are things like visual schedules, first then cards… anything that helps a child visually see what is expected of him or her).  

Misc: There is a whole bunch of things that fall into this category – my favorite is being able to go into the classrooms and play. I love kids and they are the BEST part of my job! I also attend trainings, fill out lots of paperwork, make phone calls, write up notes, and other non-interesting tasks! I also get involved in various research projects and am involved in numerous fundraising events.

Well, that’s kind of a quick overview of what I do – but it has turned into quite the lengthy post! If you’re still reading, thanks for sticking with me! I hope it has given my readers a better idea of what I do, and I am happy to answer any questions that you may think of 🙂

Happy Tuesday 🙂

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