How can a school psychological consultant help students come to recognize themselves as both “different” and “able”? What are the steps we school psychological consultants take to help struggling students?
School is often the first place where students show learning and/or emotional interferences. Careful behavioral observation by a teacher and a mental health professional are vital first steps in this process. These specific observations provide the raw material for any professional referrals and/or modifications of the teaching methodology to enhance learning by the student. It is often necessary, as a next procedural step, to collaborate with the child’s parents, and to ultimately make an outside professional referral for an in depth and evaluative study of the student and of the interferences that are making learning more difficult for the student.
Some schools may be equipped to provide such diagnostic evaluation in house, and if so, an outside referral may not be necessary. The careful and systematic observations of a student and their academic record should dictate the referral. This referral process must include the parents working in concert with school personnel, and be the seedbed for a support network that includes school personnel, parents, and appropriate outside professional resources. Depending upon their age, it may be appropriate to include the student in this referral process. Certainly, the professional doing the diagnostic work must explain to the student the purpose of the evaluative study, and parents need to explain this as well to their child at a level developmentally appropriate to the student.
Once the evaluative results are complete, the next step is the mutual sharing of the diagnostic picture with the parents, the school personnel, and as appropriate, with the student. Most vital in this process step are the remediation recommendations, which emerge from the results of the diagnostic evaluation. Here too, the unified efforts of the student, outside professional, school personnel, and the student are vital. As a first step, how these results are to be shared with the student, parents, and school personnel must be decided and then implemented. The school psychologist is the appropriate coordinator of these combined efforts. Based on the evaluative results, it may be within the purview of the school psychologist to make referrals, perhaps to a learning resource professional, psychotherapist, or to psychiatric consult for possible medication,.
As the treatment plan is put into effect, it may well fall to the school psychologist to be the facilitator and coordinator. For example, periodic meetings and updates from a learning therapist to teachers will be vital. An outside psychotherapist must be communicating periodically as to the progress the student is making. Relevant alterations in school programming may be necessary in order to maximize the efficiency of the treatment plan.
This is a continuing process, with the sharing of diagnostic and treatment work during the academic year, and most vitally, from one academic year to the next. In fact, the selection and assignment of new teacher(s) for the coming academic year must be a component of the treatment plan. The school psychologist is the repository of all of the data, both from inside and outside of the school, and thus a crucial player as the student moves on through the school environment. A school psychologist’s work can change a forgotten student’s experience into one of the strength and learning. We help our students learn that there is no shame in being e help them learn how to be able.