In recognition of School Psychologists Awareness Week this month, let’s explore exactly what a school psychologists is, and how they improve the school experience.
What’s a school psychologists, and how do they collaborate with other school-based support team members?
School psychologists work in a team with school social workers and school counselors. The role of each of these professionals will vary by school district based on staffing. The tasks they perform also vary based on the age group of the students.
These providers help students improve academic performance, study skills and social skills. They also help students prepare for college, make class schedules and deal with larger concerns like family and friend problems, bullying and even abuse.
These professionals work with families, teachers, mental health professionals and others to conduct assessments, implement programs and adjust curricula to make schools safe and supportive learning environments. Each may provide direct mental health services to students. School psychologists additionally conduct evaluations.
Making schools safer
School psychologists play an important role in making schools safe for everyone. They work in crisis prevention and respond when a crisis does occur to help students and staff respond appropriately and receive necessary mental health support.
This is particularly vital in violence and bullying prevention. In Utah, the School Safety Commission recommends that the state create threat assessment teams with a school psychologists, police officer, administrator and others to respond immediately when there’s a threat of students harming themselves or others, like the incident at Mountain View High School.
Suicide is an epidemic in Utah schools. In 1999, the suicide rate for children ages 10-17 was 12 per 100,000 people. By 2017, it was 42 per 100,000. Utah Valley isn’t immune from that trend. In the past five years, four students at Salem Hills High School committed suicide.
School psychologists, who are trained mental health professionals, understand how to identify children at risk for suicide and intervene. Those risk factors include:
— mental illness
— situational crises
— family problems
— family history of suicide
When school psychologists identify an at-risk child, they will inform parents, and give recommendations and referrals for mental health care. They also provide support and follow-up counseling at school.
Supporting children with disabilities
School psychologists help identify, evaluate and assist students with specific disabilities. School psychologist help identify, evaluate and assist students with disabilities that affect their learning. Disabilities ranging from specific learning disability, Traumatic Brain Injury, other health impairment, emotional disturbance, autism spectrum disorder, and others can all affect a student’s ability to learn.
These children may have problems reading, listening, speaking, spelling, writing or doing math as well as following classroom expectations or managing behaviors appropriately.
In this role, school psychologists:
— assess cognitive, social/behavioral and adaptive needs of the student
— plan Individualized Education Programs (often referred to as IEPs)
— watch student progress and communicate with parents
— improve student engagement by adjusting classroom routines and facilities
— adapt instruction to meet students’ needs effectively
Improving school achievement
School psychologists aren’t teachers. However, they have the education and psychology background necessary to enhance student success. With this expertise, they:
— help teachers and administrators manage behavior in the classroom
— reduce unnecessary referrals to special education
— observe student progress
— motivate and engage students
— gather and interpret data about students and classrooms.
As mental health becomes an increasing concern for students, school psychologists are there to be an advocate for each child. They make schools and students safer, help children with learning disabilities and their families and improve student achievement in schools.
School psychologists, school social workers and school counselors are important resources who can help each student be successful.