Parents’ Universal Resource Experts – Sue Scheff – Recession causes fewer School Psychologists

With today’s economic struggles, more people are losing jobs and that includes teachers and others that work in the education system.  During the recent cut in funds for schools, we are seeing a reduction in school psychologists.  In reality, this may be the time our kids need the most help. Many are not familiar with recession, why their families are cutting back, maybe not taking that family vacation, or can’t have those name brand trendy clothes.

natlasscschoolpsySource: Connect with Kids

Few School Psychologists

“They’re spread thin, and they usually serve a handful of schools each. So they might be in one school one day and another school the next day.”

– Frank Smith, state director of psychological services

Cuts in state and local funding due to the recession are taking a toll on our schools. Here’s just one more example: school psychologists. They’re trained to help kids deal with all kinds of personal and academic problems, but today we have too many students and not enough psychologists.

Last year, 16-year-old Kristen was sometimes depressed and angry, and she kept it all inside, at least until she joined a group discussion at school. “When you don’t talk to people, you get bottled up, and then you end up exploding, and then end up doing something you wouldn’t have done otherwise,” she says.

School psychologists, like Anne Ferris who serves Kristen’s school, are trained to spot potentially explosive students. She helps kids like Kristen open up and talk.

“What’s going on in your personal life — so much affects how well you can learn, your studying, your habits, your ability to concentrate and listen to the teacher,” says Ms. Ferris.

“It’d be great if all kids came to school absolutely motivated and ready to learn, the reality is many don’t,” says Frank Smith, director of psychological services for the Georgia Department of Education. “They bring in a lot of baggage with them — some of them with very serious problems — and it does take specially trained people to ferret out those problems and design a plan to neutralize those problems, so the child can have success.”

The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a minimum of one psychologist per 1,000 students. That’s the minimum. By that measure, right now in America, we are short 20,000 school psychologists.

“They’re spread thin,” says Smith, “and they usually serve a handful of schools each. So they might be in one school one day and another school the next day.”

Experts say if your child’s school is short-handed, be proactive. Encourage your child to talk and watch for signs of trouble — whether academic, social or emotional — and finally, if you have to, askfor help.

“Parents need to trust their gut instincts,” says Smith. “If they’re feeling like something’s wrong and they need to be doing something, they are probably right.”

talkwithkidsTips for Parents

School psychologists help children and youth succeed academically, socially and emotionally. They collaborate with educators, parents, and other professionals to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments for all students that strengthen connections between home and school. The National Association of School Psychologists says there is a serious shortage of school psychologists nationwide, especially in rural areas. As a result, experts say the shortage of school psychologists in rural areas is making it tougher for districts to meet federal academic standards. School psychologists help students with learning disabilities and those who respond to different teaching styles or techniques. School psychologists also can detect and prevent situations involving potentially “explosive“ students.

  • School psychologists are highly trained in both psychology and education. They must complete a minimum of a post-Master’s degree program that includes a one-year internship.
  • School psychologists must be certified and/or licensed by the state in which they work.
  • School psychologists may be nationally certified by the National School Psychology Certification Board (NSPCB).
  • School psychologists work with students individually and in groups.
  • They also develop programs to train teachers and parents regarding effective teaching and learning strategies, effective techniques to manage behavior at home and in the classroom, working with students with disabilities or with special talents, abuse of drugs and other substances and preventing and managing crises.

All children and adolescents face problems from time to time. They may be afraid to go to school, have difficulty organizing their time efficiently, lack effective study skills, fall behind in their school work, lack self-discipline, worry about problems occurring at home, be depressed or anxious, experiment with drugs and alcohol and even think about suicide.

To intervene effectively, parents need to know some common characteristics of adolescents at risk for school failure. These characteristics include:

  • Attention problems. The student has a history of attention issues at school.
  • Poor grades. The student consistently performs at barely average or below average levels.
  • Retentions. The student has been retained in one or more grade levels.
  • Absenteeism. The student is absent five or more days per term.
  • Lack of connection with school and community activities. The student is not involved with sports, music, scouting, or other extracurricular activities.
  • Behavior problems. The student may be disciplined frequently in school or may show a sudden change in school behavior, such as withdrawing from classroom discussions.
  • Lack of confidence. The student believes that success is linked to natural intelligence rather than to hard work and that his or her own ability is insufficient and cannot be changed or improved.
  • Limited goals for the future. The student seems unaware of what career options are available or how to attain those goals.

While these topics are items to watch for in your child, it is always best to trust your instincts. If you feel there is a problem with your child, talk to them. Open lines of communication are proven to be the best defense in keeping your child healthy. If you feel a serious, life-threatening situation exists, seek professional help immediately.