Archives for posts with tag: psychoeducational assessment

01_Touchscreen_#infographic_for_school-psych_Page_1Movie director Ron Howard, in his film Parenthood, seats Steve Martin and Mary Steenbergen in front of a dour elementary school Principal.  She lands the first blow. “We don’t think Kevin should come back here next Fall.  I’m going to recommend that he be transferred to a school that offers special education classes.”

Dad risks a guess. “Because he’s so smart?” (Don’t rule it out.) “Well, actually, I mean a class for children with emotional problems,” the Principal continues.  (Seems Kevin’s been pretty anxious.)  In breezes an unwelcome surprise guest: one “Dr. Lucas” who should NOT be introducing himself at THIS stage. But here he is. Ron Howard is crafting very bad psychologist indeed. He has “been observing Kevin for the past couple of months.” (REALLY?)

CUT!    Who hired these Un-Professionals?  Yes, Hollywood DOES have license to show them as seen through these poor parents’ glazed eyes.  But Ron!

WHERE did you get such ethically bankrupt and autocratically insensitive educators?  (Not to mention, badly dressed.)

WHY are you trading on our anxieties about special ed, just for a bit of plot-thickening?

HOW can any psychologist, anywhere, get to observe and assess child without even asking the parents AND make a placement recommendation that looks pretty final?

MOREOVER:  On its own, anxiety is the LAST reason to make the little guy change schools, Ron.  It’s a great reason to keep him right where he is.  Special educators know this. Staff who are familiar to Kevin seek School Psychology consultation. They then support his school adjustment (storeys B & C at right). This in turn supports his achievement (Storey A at right).

Tough on Parents?  Needlessly, in this case. “Mr. Buckman, this is a public school” adds the Principal.  (Really? Why is it just now feeling like a back office of the Mob?)  At its best, but admittedly not everywhere, modern special education can be so inspiring that parents fight to get their kids into it.  Evidence-based teaching practices are the mainstay.  Assistive technologies such as laptops loaded with specialized software, SmartBoards (touch-screen whiteboards) and math apps that let you lay out equations textbook-style, edit and and graph them; are examples of cutting-edge accommodations that help level the playing field for students with unusual profiles.

Flexible, Powerful Teaching and Learning Strategies.  Ontario  students are among the more fortunate, participating in this deep cultural shift.  This movement began with UNESCO’s 1990 Declaration on Education for All.  Best practices are not always expensive.  Even developing countries get more for each education dollar

Look for a school culture that is strongly inclusive.

Two basics apply here.  First, instil in students the shared goal of success for all. Second, proactively build cohesion and problem-solving BEFORE the inevitable bullying emerges.  Restorative Practices, based on Native justice circles, is perhaps the best example.

Where does that leave competition in the classroom?  Lost in the past.  Sympathies to all parents who ever dreamed that their child would be clapped and cheered by classmates for beating them all.  Success is its own reward.   Rare is the teacher who is still stuck in the competition era.  They have long ago lost touch with the system’s growth in values.  Yes, there MUST always be scholarships and medals.  Healthy schools save for those triumphs for commencement; and Most Improved Student is among them.

What does special education really look like today? The answers are as diverse as students’ needs.  From sensitive and brilliant individual programming for the child with autism; to the high-octane stimulation and support offered by a best-practices Gifted teacher.  In every profession there are inequalities in expertise.  But specialist teachers are a highly motivated crew and their upgrading is continual.

So, why do many of us, as parents, still fear even something as mild as a diagnosis of Learning Disability or Attention Deficit Disorder?

We presume that labels limit our child’s academic future and career.  This is upside down, since rights and advocacy have taken hold.  Marks are all that the School Board can transmit to post-secondary institutions. But those institutions now have their own learning support systems.  You are admitted on your merits, THEN you send your diagnosis and apply for Accessibility (Learning Strategist; Assistive Technologies; accommodations).

If stigma makes us maroon the students’ broader abilities by not meeting specific functional learning needs, then we DO limit their futures.  Even school behaviour issues, a parent’s worst nightmare, respond to sophisticated best practices.  So how do we get our heads around the key issues, ask the right questions and make the right moves on our kids’ behalf?

Ask for the big picture.  Educators and administrators are often careful to not overwhelm us with information beyond the immediate scenario.  If you give them permission to explain the broader prospects and options, often you will usually get an enthusiastic response.  “Response to Intervention” (RTI) is now the first-line approach.  In early grades, we have better and better remedial methods that serve a preventative role.  (A best-case example is the Empower Reading program developed at Hospital for Sick Children.)  RTI is special education, writ-small. If it helps, but not enough, then we look at more formal psychological assessment; toward identification as an Exceptional Learner.

Listen to your child without bias.  Their school experience will come across differently to you, as parent, versus what they say to an educator.  Don’t expect them to be necessarily consistent.  Most kids don’t know how to express inner conflict until adolescence or close-on. In time, they will to learn to say, “Part of me thinks essay conferencing is working; and part of me just thinks it’s too confusing.”  (Maybe the’re not said to the same person, either.)  Don’t confront them with their inconsistencies when they are first learning to resolve conflicting views even adults can struggle with.

Understand the Four Levels of Growth.  One way to quickly grasp a child’s needs for special education is to ask questions based on the four-level graphic alongside this article.

Achievement;

Behaviour;

Clinical concerns versus emotional health; and

Development (physical, motoric, cognitive, language . . . )

form a necessary self-supporting structure, similar to the fancifully tall four-storey school building pictured above. (The image here is of very limited resolution. A fully detailed version is available from the author: psychologyisgrowth@live.ca .)  Practitioners of school psychology can tell you which levels are involved; and what the next steps are, at each storey.

Get involved.  Anything you can do for your child’s school tends to be received with true gratitude; and helps build collaboration.  Parent involvement is such a priority that it is one focus of recent amendments to the Education Act (Bill 177; Sept. 2010).

Support your child’s self-concept.  We may come to laugh at stigma but for adolescents it is rarely a laughing matter.  All bets are off, for how teen peer groups will respond to a student’s Identified status. Your teen’s self- advocacy may just have to wait until post-secondary years.  Privacy of his or her identification is impossible to maintain. Ironically,  attempts at privacy would just fuel stigma. Celebrate strengths and recognize needs.  Everyone else can ‘get over it.’

Know your rights.  Educators in general are highly respectful of them.  While it is possible to approve some parts of a recommended programming but not others, DO be careful that you don’t block your child’s broader options by disagreeing with one essential piece.   Be aware that special education ‘labels’ (identification categories) often sound worse than they are.  “Communication; Learning Disabled” is often a sought-after category.  In it, the child is understood to have Average potential or better; but MUST have special education to fulfill it, without undue agony.

In some boards, “Autism” is the only administrative label under which complex multiple needs get help; even if it is not the actual diagnosis.

Look farther afield.  Interventions and supports from agencies like Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario, JVS Toronto, Canadian Attention Deficit Disorder Resource Alliance and private psychological services can each make a substantial difference.  Special educators, psychologists and some psychology-savvy physicians can guide you to them.

Be aware:

Public educators can’t actually recommend private assessment–That creates an impression that the system is broken.  Of course, the system is more cash-strapped than outright ‘broken.’

Like all public resources, it has to priorities the most urgent needs.  Usually the most they can do is respond clearly, when you finally do ask about private psychology.

Include “Psychological Associates” when you search for private services.  Many PA’s have extensive school board experience.  They are fully independent practitioners and diagnosticians, with an MA rather than PhD.  The College of Psychologists certifies and regulates both at the exact same level.

Attend all the meetings.  There are three levels.  (1) A SERT conference explains learning needs and offers options. You may want other professionals there, too.  (2) IEP or Individual Education Plan.  Rubber meets road. This document specifies concrete steps.  Even your homework support can be more effective with IEP guidance. If diagnostics are recommended, results go to a Board committee called (3) IPRC. This provides legally binding  recognition of  rights to special education.

Focus on what’s possible.  Funding levels and staff training spaces are not what administrators and specialists would wish.  If you get frustrated, you can bet they are too.  A dose of reality has to be swallowed every time an IPRC committee weighs a child’s needs against available placements and resources.

Take the long view until your child can. Even our teens have mostly minimal mind share for ‘the future.”  Tossing around the possibilities for program choices briefly but often is a growth experience for them.  School Guidance is really only the second level, built on top of the thoughtfulness that parents instil about this, from day to day.

Be politically aware.  Many Canadian provinces pushe the special-education envelope, whenever they can.  American legislation may be ahead of ours on paper, but our overall resources-in-place are probably ahead of most U.S. jurisdictions.  Some urban areas such as Toronto face special challenges due to complex demands on their education systems.

Finding out more: 

The Ministry’s book-length PDF, Education for All, lays out recent best practices for core math and reading.  Though written for educators in grades K-6, contains overview segments useful to parents.  The follow-up, Learning for All addresses grades K-12.  Autism publications include Effective Educational Practices for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. For attentional disorders and executive function, we are just at the outset of special education rights.  CADDRA and CADDAC are twin organizations which seek to improve treatment and education for students with these highly workable conditions.  While attentional disorders are not recognized by the Ministry as a cognitive learning disorder, they are the next frontier.

© 2012 Ken McCallion, Registered, MA CPsych Assoc

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WHEN EXACTLY ARE WE GOING TO DO THIS, AS A FAMILY???

Fitting a full psych-ed assessment into a month of school work can be tricky. Two months, including a Winter break booking, can make a lot of sense. And if your health benefits year renews at New Year’s, double the coverage can reduce your costs to a small fraction of the total.

familiesonline_comBut the bigger reasons for seeking assessment are the lifetime ones. Getting to the root of the problem means giving the student more durable ways to keep up grade level and permanently improve academic skills.

student writing intense HS creative writing2Accommodations and supports in school or on campus can be a new beginning. And they don’t stop at undergrad. Graduate and professional schools all must provide reasonable accommodations for the student who learns dfferently — yet completely.

WHAT DIFFERENCE WILL IT MAKE?

Individually tuned learning strategies, teaching strategies and, where justified, provincial funding for assistive technologies (laptop and learning support software) can become permanent rights. School support teams get to work. Grades, confidence and graduation rates go up.  School Team - flopped - birds eye view iStock_000017019878Large

WHY HAS MY SCHOOL, UNIVERSITY OR COLLEGE NOT PROVIDED AN ASSESSMENT?

Most educators would like to provide more assessments and learning support. It’s good for the learning environment, the future workforce and the economy. Just ask the successful teachers and professors who now practice with a learning disability and are that much better at teaching, for it. Your school trustee or MPP will be interested in your input, on these issues.

IF GIFTEDNESS AND LEARNING DISABILITY HAD AN ARGUMENT, 

NO-ONE WOULD WIN —

And both would wear masks, so they couldn’t be recognized. Bringing them into harmony, so that the student’s strengths shine and he or she copes skillfully with challenges, requires a personalized approach.  Teachers of Gifted classes know this. That does not help the student whose giftedness goes unnoticed. Criteria are strict and there is no back door. But students who need both enrichment and support have a distinct profile, which justifies both.

WILL THIS GO ON THE ACADEMIC RECORD?  

OSAID logo

In a word, “NEVER.” Transcripts do not show the student’s exceptionality. You apply to post-secondary, based on marks alone. If you are already accepted, your university or college must still consider results from a Summer assessment, toward accommodations and learning supports, in all years of study. If you take a university or college course called Learning Strategies or the like, that CAN show up on your transcript, but odds are that it will be surrounded with good-to-excellent marks that put the lie to any notions of limited potential. So unless someone on staff had a liquid lunch, your disability status remains private health information, not for educational documentation.

A December-January assessment can be more relaxed . . .

There are other advantages to assessments that straddle Winter Break:

  • Less juggling around schoolwork, so the student is often more relaxed and ‘into it.’
  • It’s easier to alternate activity & exercise between the 2 or 3 morning sessions.
  • Time to catch up on sleep first may be more available.
  • A relaxed clinic schedule at Beaches includes much Winter break availability.
  • Three-week turnaround enables families to approach the new school term with results.

Even graduate students professional-school applicants can be assessed and get accommodations:

  • LiveScribe_SmartPenSome adult students have succeeded despite severe struggles, but no-one is superhuman.
  • There is no upper limit, in educational level, on the right to accommodations and learning supports.
  • Some assistive technologies, such as LiveScribe Smartpen, didn’t even exist when today’s grad students started undergrad. A SmartPen records voice audio, sync’d line-by-line to your note-taking.
  • Sameness is not fairness, even for future leaders, so give yourself fairness instead.

Ken McCallion, Registered, MA, CPsych Assoc / Queen St E. at Glen Manor Drive, Toronto M4E 2X2

416-698-0999 ext 108 / ken.psychologyisgrowth@live.ca / @PsychIsGrowth

Mental health in schools is kind of like mental health anywhere else. Building and maintaining it both depend on a great many things ‘going  right.’ So how can a parent, or for thDSL for Parents 2013at matter even a hard working teacher, even get the big picture of a student’s school day? Of what they are going through?  One place to start is to piece together all available professional input and to organize it in ways that make sense to the average person. Luckily, stacking things in a bio-psychological way (symbolized by the ridiculously tall school house here) makes sense of a lot of things to a lot of people. It’s also consistent with newer ways of looking at mental health. But this approach is going to be the subject of a workshop at Canadian Mental Health Association in June, by me, so respecting the limits of not double-publishing material now promised to the CPA, I’ll have to ask folks to wait at least until mid June before  say more. (The concept map shown here was previously web-published.) In the meantime, this is the active team approach already in use at Psychology is Growth.

illustration by Paul Lee & Brian Horton, from, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Omnibus, Volume 3, Dark Horse Books, Jan. 2008

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[Buffy] My former self hates the new Me. –But I LOVE Me.

[Xander] I think you just warped something besides time, there, Buff.

[Willow] A time warp! Exactly! Buffy, that’s how you USED to think your assignments would get done.  Seemed easier than measuring out each day and week like wooden yardstick. Right? Now you know it WORKS! But we have to know exactly HOW stick with that stick!

[Xander] Quit stealing lines and sticking with sticks, Willow. Not your gig!

[Buffy] But she’s right, Xander, and the tricks she taught me should work for guys too. You know the best part? I get to HOLD TEACHERS ACCOUNTABLE. I NEED to start my assignments early. I NEED to pace them toward their due-dates. Now it’s the TEACHERS who are scrambling to get stuff to ME!  THE POWER!! Ooooh, this is better than my last triple kill. . .

GRRRWAAHHSHSH!!!

[Xander] Oh, clever. Slayer passing discretely as a slayer. That’ll throw them.

[Willow] Lay off Buffy, Xander. She’s discovered the FOUR BASIC MISTAKES she was making. And she’s corrected all four. Taking notes, twinkie-eater? Here you go:

1. DON’T wait til the teacher gets around to structuring the assignment. TELL them what times you have already booked to work on it and WHEN you need their deets.  UP FRONT.

2. DON’T wait until you have a large block of time to work on a large assignment. Large blocks mostly get wasted. Then you are even farther behind.

3. DON’T attack an assignment as if it was all one big thing. It’s not. It’s a bunch of hidden sub-goals. You have to do the detective work first. Find all your sub-goals. Put them in the order. Be ready to do the first sub-goal. Right on that day you first get the deets.

4. DON’T lose a single day. Book one hour each day, or second day, to bank some progress. Get intense for that hour. Then lay off. Berween days, it’s still in your head. So you don’t really lose that day either.

[Xander] Cool. Can I get marks for those days off?

[Willow] Get real. My point is this. Never again will you keep forgetting what your assignments are even about. Man, I never had that problem.  But everyone I know practically pees themselves when it happens.

[Xander] Nice to know you’re comfy-dry there, Willow.

[Buffy] Be nice, you two. We’ve got work to do. Best part is this: The kill is SO SLOW. It’s against the Slayer Code to do that to a vamp. Nev-Ver! They have feelings, you know?  BUT ASSIGNMENTS?  NO MERCY!

[Xander] Buff. Chill. You’re sounding psycho. In fact, lemme outa here.

[Willow] You can do it too, Xan. You don’t have to be all vicious like Buffy here. Maybe you go can undercover. Let’s shop for reading glasses. Maybe a visor ‘n’ like-that. Just til you get your courage up. No-one needs to know that you’re Heaven’s Child sitting on the Hellmouth. ‘Cept — come exam time — gotta warn ya — EVERYBODY wants to be your friend. Guys are the worst. And if they can get YOU to help them instead of Buffy or me, WELL! Get ready to play Popularity, Release 2.0, Mister.

[Xander] Okay. But they can get their own Twinkies. Hell! They can BRING the Twinkies!

[Buffy] That’s the spirit!

[Willow] WHERE?! …OH CRAP, BUFFY! DON’T USE THAT…It sounds different, from you.

 

BE THE FIRSTYEAR STUDENT WHO CAN WRITE

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Professor and seminar group(ONTARIO) “Try writing like Helen over there. She can give you some tips.”  Prof. Claritti’s comment is a bit out there, for the lecture hall. But he means well. He likes Jac’s concepts. When he can find them.

Jac got into his first-pick university because his high school averages soared. – On wings of math and science.  Now, these strict, First Year expectations for smooth, clear, concise writing are hitting Jac like a line-drive to the gut. Feedback notes on his lab reports and essays seem ‘blind’ to Jac’s best efforts.

Jac never needed special education. High school teachers consistently ‘tolerated’ his writing because he was a strong student overall (if sometimes a big show-off). His teachers had other issues to address . . .

peer editing

Teachers never had cause enough to get Jac to practice key strategies. For example:

   -Note-taking while Reading then Outlining.

   -Listen to the ‘sound’ of writing you like. 

   -Write the Abstract & Conclusion, then fill in.

   -Have a friend read your draft to you, aloud, and without commenting.

Whether you form a study group with stronger writers, hire a private tutor, or qualify for learning disability Access Centre and BSWD for software like Kurzweil and WordQ, you’re among many first-year students who have a wall to climb, just to raise their writing to expected levels. If a disability is truly unlikely, just max-out your campus network by trading your highest skills for writing guidance and arm’s length editing. -And keep your ethics. Even when a friend is happy to trade in theirs.    KM 

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The key to best health outcomes for you as patient OR your child, is integrated care by as many different health professions and para-professions as necessary. Whether the needs of your child, adolescent, or you as adult are emotional-relational, or centred on learning and achievement, or both, you deserve effective, time-optimized care. In some cases, there may be both health professionals and educators on the team.

As a full member of the College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO), both for Clinical and School Psychology, I am registered to practice with Child, Adolescent and Adult clients in Ontario. I uphold the standards of outcomes-directed practice which have made psychology on of the most progressive forces for wellness and healing, that our era has to offer.

Being also a member of the National Association of School Psychologists (US) and the Ontario group, OAPA, mean that your practitioner participates in resource and research networks that offer the most updated methods and insights, for thoughtful integration with long-established, sound, best practices.

Such a cliche is the word “teamwork” now that we can almost call it ‘the T-word’ now. On the other hand, professional problem-based-learning means at three things:

First, we see you as an individual; not strictly a ‘patient.’

Second, as colleagues, we’re regularly learning from each other.

Third, anything we don’t know, we find out, and we strive to do so in time for it to make a difference in your care.

Preventative health care is also a growing part of psychological practice today. Practitioners, administrators and politicians can all find themselves struggling with methods of service delivery which may unintentionally punish providers for taking ‘extra’ time to do preventative work. Understandably, care systems may also reward practitioners for giving just-equitable time-per-patient. Sameness is not always fairness. Care integration means that everyone works preventatively and helps assemble the big picture. We exchange ideas constructively and plan strategically for your wellness, or your recovery.

Yours in health and development,

Ken McCallion, Registered, MA, CPsych Assoc

Psychology-Psychiatry-Blog-Version-No-para-Minimal-text

Psychology is a health profession, all on its own. Psychology has many ‘practice areas.’ The ones that most people know about are clinical psychology, school psychology and counselling psychology. In most provinces and states, psychology never uses the term ‘specialization’ (whereas, the medical profession does.)

Medicine is of course a separate health profession. One of its specializations is psychiatry.  The subdivisions of psychiatry are Paediatric and Adult.

Psychiatists, as physicians, can prescribe drug-based treatments. They may use other therapies, as well. Psychologists use only evidence-based treatments — and a very wide range of them. So-called ‘talk therapy’ may be a component (and sometimes invaluable) but other examples include home-school collaborative behaviour consulting, experiential therapies, mindfulness training, covert sensitization/desensitization, and many others.  Each is finely tuned to the types of issues or disorders one brings to the work — even when it seems it’s unheard-of, many are surprised to learn that it’s well researched and the psychologist knows exactly what to do.  But there’s more:  Based on a full, human appreciation of your strengths and needs, psychologist and client take that already-fine-tuned therapy and tune it, further, to who you are as an individual. This is very far from being just ‘pigeon-holed’ into a Diagnosis X and being given Treatment Y.  This gives the client a truly dignified and proactive way to confront a serious, psychological concern.

Unfortunately, the title ‘Psychotherapist’ has a long history of not meaning much at all, in Ontario and some other places. Efforts are underway to structure a new healthcare college, to regulate the use of ‘psychotherapist’ so that appropriate candidates can work for it, earn it, and use it proudly for the first time.

Children and teens usually don’t buy any of this, at first. Keep in mind that NO-ONE EVER wants to go to a psychologist (OMG) unless there’s gonna be FUN. Damn straight. The thing that surprises many parents is how insight-generating the fun can be. Parents also find out what kinds of collaboration and teamwork they can build with their child, through attachment-oriented or ‘dyadic’ sessions and separate, parent-only, consultation sessions.

A future post on this blog will say more about what kinds of dynamic teamwork that psychology and psychiatry can sometimes pull off, when client needs require it.

If you have questions about this topic or about psychological services at this clinic, feel free to use the contact form, below.