Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Day in the Life, Thursday

Alrighty friends, here's what my Thursday shaped up into! I do not plan on documenting my day tomorrow, as I will be at an in-service training all day Friday (pray for me, as they are typically somewhat boring).

I hope this wee series has been interesting in documenting the day-to-day workings of a school psychologist! Perhaps it'll be continued at another point in time. :)

8:30 – arrived at school.

8:30-8:45 – orientation with a new student (Learning Disability, Integrated Co-Teaching level of service) and his family who moved in from NYC.

8:45 – emails, paperwork, filing.

9:15 – read the announcements (The character trait quote of the week: “Do the thing you think you
cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt)

9:20 – 10:10 – attempted to work on a psychological report for an initial case while an IT guy fixed/
updated two computers and a maintenance guy worked on the phones. I haven’t had a working phone
on my desk since August 2011. I now can be bothered on demand.

10:10-11:00 – supervised an assembly where a local musician presented on various types of wind
instruments, particularly didgeridoos. I love that our kids can be exposed to interesting and unique
experiences like this!

11:00-12:45-- attempted to continue write reports, interrupted by chatting IT guy, phone
calls from the district Placement office, teachers and students visiting. The IT guy is uber creepy. I think
he might be a vampire or some other creature of the night. Also, I have accomplished next to nothing
today thus far. Sigh.

12:45-1:15 – collaboration and discussion with colleagues about best course of action to ensure the
safety of a student facing gang retaliation in her neighborhood after her cousin was shot last night. Ugh,
it disgusts me to see a child so afraid. We planned to have a police car follow her bus home and make
sure she got into her house safely. There will be increased police presence in the neighborhood for a

1:20 – began record review of suspension data for initial case I’ve been trying to finish all day. Dragged
two stuffed-to-the-rims 3” binders down from the cabinet, both full of suspension letters. I also braced
myself for potential paper cuts from flipping through the binders.

2:30 – realized I haven’t eaten lunch yet, ate some pineapple. Finally finished the report I was working
on. Began entering information into the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). It’s incredible
how late it gets before I realize that I haven’t eaten.

3:10 – called to assist with a student (Emotional Disturbance, Bipolar Disorder) in crisis. Had to carry the
student downstairs due to extreme unsafe behaviors, he was unable to walk himself because he was
tantruming too hard. I supported his feet and have the red, rubbed raw forearms to prove it. Poor peanut…
he breaks my heart because he just can't control himself. He’s recently classified and waiting for a 8:1+1 Special Class placement for next year, as the district is not allowing anymore movement to new settings this school year.

3:20 – off to afternoon post on the bus loop.

3:35-3:45 - chatting with the 5th grade 6:1+1 Special Class teacher in the hallway on the way out the door.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Day in the Life, Wednesday

Here's some more snip its of my daily ups and downs... enjoy Wednesday!

8:30 – arrived at school, booted up laptop and rifled through papers from my mailbox. And filing suspension letters… insert Debbie Downer noise here.

8:45-9:15 – chit-chatting with district representative about cases and issues. Fixing all the district’s problems and figuring out world peace, obviously.

9:15 – off to the main office to read the morning announcements! The character trait of the month is self-reliance, if you were curious.

9:20-10:15 – record review for an upcoming three-year reevaluation case. Set up report outlines for this case and another initial referral.

10:15 –student in crisis, wandering the building agitated by a negative peer interaction on the bus this morning. Tracked student around first floor, waited outside bathroom while she banged walls and doors. Eventually herded student to main office. Why is it so hard for kids to just admit they did something wrong, even when they’re told that they won’t be in trouble and it will be dealt with without the principal?

10:40-11:20 – returned to record reviews and discussion with school social worker.

11:15 – 12:15 – completed psychological evaluation testing for one reevaluation case and one initial case. Surprisingly, no fun anecdotes to report!

12:20 – 12:45 – gathering of paperwork, cumulative records, and documentation for a child being referred for a placement at a day school agency as a result of a Committee on Special Education (CSE) meeting from Monday. The agency referral packet is so big, I’m surprised they don’t need blood samples.

12:50-3:15 – worked on reports for two students evaluated earlier today, complete with interruptions to assist in a first grade classroom (see my Facebook post, which was my initial case from above), take phone calls, and have quick discussions with teachers and students as they wandered their ways in.

3:20 – afternoon post on the bus loop interrupted by a student needing to be escorted to her bus, to prevent her from punching someone in the face over a missing notebook. Problem-solving at its best.

3:25-3:35 – hallway chit chat with the music teacher on our way out the door.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Day in the Life, Tuesday

I've had a lot of questions from readers about what my every day goings-on look like, since the field of school psychology can take so many turns and have so many faces, building-to-building and district-to-district. Well, I had planned to do a "day in the life" post every day this week. Monday can be summed up very simply:

Committee on Special Education meetings. All day. Fun stuff, I tell you.

So, that brings us to Tuesday! Today was a pretty full day...

8:30 – arrived at school and answered emails before my other colleagues came in. Ahhh… peace and quiet…

9:00 – students entered school. I worked on Individuals Education Plans (IEPs) from my Committee on Special Education (CSE) meetings yesterday, entering specific services and durations for programming.

9:15 – headed to the main office to read the morning announcements. So not my job, but it gives the
kids a happy voice in the morning!

9:18-9:45 – peer mediation with three seventh grade girls. Beat head against a metaphorical wall
over “girl drama.” God forbid I have a daughter… To quote the moms of my students, “I don’t have
that to do.”

9:45 – returned to entering programming on IEPs.

10:00-11:00 – meeting with various mental health and/or support service providers (mental health
counseling agency based in our building, tutoring/mentoring services, after school program, school
counselor, Big Brother/Big Sister). I presented on Check-in, Check-out, PBIS initiatives, and CSE decisions. YAY for collaboration with awesome professionals!!

11:00 - returned to entering programming on IEPs. IEPs can be so tedious!

11:30 – 12:45 – worked on psychological consultation reports for two students with speech/language
impairments that are being considered for declassification from services. With interruptions to
remove a student from the cafeteria, answer emails, and take phone calls, of course.

12:45-1:15 – fact finding regarding a Child Protective Services (CPS) call being made by a colleague.
Since the abuser was in the school building and refused to leave without the child, I housed the student in my locked office and we colored together while we waited for CPS to come to school. Poor peanut. Come home with me. 

1:15-2:30 – ate lunch at laptop. Went back to work on psychological consultation reports. Finished
both, yay for productivity despite distractions!

2:30-3:15 – catching up with colleagues, debriefing on the CPS case, chit-chatting.

3:15-3:30 – afternoon post on the bus loop, helping with an orderly dismissal. omg… so warm and
lovely out today! Love bus loop hugs from kiddos heading home.

3:35 – heading home for me!

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Putting People First

One of our district special education supervisors recently forwarded some information to the Committee on Special Education staff on People First Language, asking that we share it with our special education teachers. Seriously? Let's share that with EVERYONE! General education, special education, teacher aides, teacher assistants, engineering staff, cafeteria monitors, secretaries, parent volunteers... EVERYONE works with students with disabilities, and EVERYONE should be thoughtful of how they are reacting to those with differing abilities.

It's a simple concept really--putting a person before their disability--but the implications are great. By using People First Language, we are describing what the person has, and not who the person is. Kathie Snow at Disability is Natural has great resources regarding People First Language. This PDF gives a great overview of People First Language, and was the one that I shared with my entire building. This PDF is a great supplement as it provides examples of how we can turn phrases into People First Language.

Are you mindful of using People First Language?

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Implications of Concussions

Yesterday, we had a Committee on Special Education meeting on an interesting, and tough, case. Although, if I'm blogging about it, it'd have to be interesting, right? When do I ever blog about the cut-and-dry cases?

R was referred for the first time this year despite many years of below grade level performance. He's currently in one of our top Integrated Co-Teaching classrooms, so he's being watched and taken care of by two fantastic, intervention driven teachers. Ms. J came to me with concerns about him a few months ago and wanted to make a referral to help him have academic support services next year for seventh grade.

Some background on R... he looks like a 20 year old man, even though he's 13. He's the perfect sports specimen, built for football but with the height for basketball, and he excels at both (like, 10 trophies at home and the kid's in 6th grade). Just this weekend, he was in Florida for a basketball tournament. He could easily get scholarships to college with his skills. He's Rico Sauve, all the girls swoon over him and he loves the attention; but, he's got a sensitive side too as he's a fantastic artist and very protective over those he cares about. Great sense of humor, great story-teller, lots of "swag." I would want to be friends with this kid.

Last year, he had a very poor teacher and it was a wasted year for him, and as you may imagine, his behavior was a problem. He was often cutting up in class and butted heads with the teacher constantly. As an adult, you would guess he often instigated some of the issues, but if my teacher called me "big lipped," I would feel the need to defend myself, too. (Yes, she really called him that. I could barely be mad at him when I had to deal with the issue.) More typical behaviors are a lack of motivation, distractibility, taking a long time to complete assignments, and becoming easily frustrated over academic tasks and shutting down.

I happily took R for testing, but was blown away by the results. R had a Full Scale IQ standard score of 57 and academic achievement standard scores around 65-70, which place him in the Intellectually Disabled range. WHAT? I'll take "Results I Would Never Bet on in Vegas" for 1,000, Alex. How did this social, artistic, could-go-pro-football-some-day kiddo obtain a lower IQ score than the student we just placed in a life skills program? The scores didn't make sense--sure, R has a lot of difficulty academically, but an ID classification?

At the end of last week, our social worker went out to R's house to meet his mom for a social history, and things began to fall into place. R met all his developmental milestones on time or even early, and was sinking baskets at age 2. Then, at age 7, he was hit by a car riding his bike, lost consciousness, and was taken to the ER, where he was diagnosed with a concussion. He repeated second grade that year. By 9, he had at least three more concussions playing football. Around age 10, his mother started noticing changes in his behavior (problems concentrating, more listless, memory difficulties, impulsivity) and his academics dropped. Suddenly unexpected results make sense--R probably has a traumatic brain injury from multiple concussions over a two year span.

The worst parts about this whole scenario are two fold: 1) R has been struggling for years, and no one ever evaluated him before, and 2) R's future could be totally changed as a result of these concussions and special education classification. A child that could've gone to college on a sports scholarship may now require intensive supports to obtain higher education, if he makes it there at all.

Concussions are serious business, and a new "buzz" in the education world. What looks like a bump on the head when it happens can have serious, lasting, devastating impact on a child's future, especially if injuries are cumulative. Check out the CDC's "Head's Up" program, which has great information for parents, coaches, etc about concussions and traumatic brain injuries and their long-term impacts. Also, here are some resources from NASP's Communique:

Sports-Related Concussions, by Don Brady and Flo Brady
Getting School Psychologists Into the Game, by Susan C. Davies

One further exciting development in concussion research is a cool new app from PAR, Inc. called Concussion Recognition & Response: Coach and Parent Version. The app helps individuals screen the likelihood of a concussion at the moment an injury occurs. This app was recently featured in the Communique. At the October 2012 NY Association of School Psychologists Conference in Niagara Falls, NY, there will be a strain on concussions and head injuries, where PAR will come to present on the app and its use, as well as experts from University at Buffalo. I highly encourage all nearby to attend (and not just because I'm on the conference planning committee!).

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