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NASP Communiqué, Vol. 34, #4
December 2005

NASP 2006 Annual Convention, March 28–April 1

A Pound of Prevention Is Worth a Ton of Cure

By John Desrochers, Jeff Charvat, Jack Cummings, Beth Doll, NCSP, Clarissa Garcia, & Paula Laidig, NCSP, Prevention Task Force

Ed. Note. The theme of the 2006 Anaheim Convention is "Prevention IS an Intervention." This article highlights the activities of the Presidential Task Force on Prevention and previews some of the Anaheim Convention offerings.

What do these activities have in common: screening, early intervention teams, bully-proofing, parent and teacher training, counseling, and consultation? They are all preventive activities already conducted by school psychologists every day. Prevention is a traditional part of school psychology that in the last several years has begun to get the recognition it deserves. This year, NASP is highlighting prevention as a priority role for school psychologists through its “Prevention Is an Intervention” theme.

An Ounce of Prevention

An extensive empirical base exists showing that “well-designed, well-implemented school-based prevention and youth development programming can positively influence a diverse array of social, health, and academic outcomes” (Greenberg, et al., 2003) and school psychologists have access to that knowledge base to varying degrees. In many cases, however, children, families, and schools do not have access to these well-established programs because of the difficulties inherent in disseminating program information from researchers to practitioners, the time and effort required for practitioners to learn these new approaches, and limited support for prevention programming in individual school districts (Weisz, Sandler, Durlak, & Anton, 2005). School districts often marginalize prevention activities and focus their reform efforts exclusively on improving school organization and resource management or on direct facilitation of learning, not understanding that addressing barriers to teaching and learning through prevention programming improves outcomes in both of these areas (Adelman & Taylor, 2005). The most effective schools will be those that completely integrate management, instruction, and prevention in all of their programs.

A Pound of Cure

When NASP President Bill Pfohl declared the “Prevention Is an Intervention” theme for his presidential year, he also commissioned a Presidential Task Force to develop and coordinate efforts to promote prevention as a priority function of school psychologists by providing them with up-to-date resources, information, and training opportunities. Task Force members include Beth Doll (chair), Jeff Charvat, Jack Cummings, John Desrochers, Clarissa Garcia, and Paula Laidig. Ann Crawford, a graduate assistant at the University of Nebraska, is providing research and administrative support.

During the course of this year the Task Force will complete eight assignments: (1) prepare a prevention position paper for NASP, (2) submit articles and inserts on the topic of prevention to the Communiqué, (3) create a “clearinghouse” website on prevention that easily links the existing NASP web-resources on prevention and integrates these into a conceptually-based easy-to-navigate schema, (4) construct a page on the NASP website containing an annotated bibliography of references related to prevention, (5) integrate web-based and other resources into a Continuing Professional Development program, (6) identify key speakers to participate in a prevention strand at the 2006 NASP Convention, (7) design and disseminate one or two prevention brochures, and (8) help develop a presentation on issues in prevention for use at NASP Regional Meetings.

Much has already been accomplished. Planning is underway for presentations at the 2006 Convention in Anaheim (see below) and state association leaders participated in presentations and discussions regarding prevention at the NASP Regional Meetings in October and November. Collecting, analyzing, and annotating references is an ongoing task, but much has been done in this area as well. The position paper, Communiqué insert, and CPD unit depend on completing this research, but the Task Force is on schedule to complete all its work by the end of the school year. School psychologists should monitor the Communiqué and the NASP website for resources as they become available in the upcoming months.

Prevention in the Spotlight

A highlight of the Task Force’s work will be the President’s Special Strand at the NASP Convention in Anaheim. The “Prevention Is an Intervention” strand will feature three sessions by well-known experts in prevention: Howard Adelman and Linda Taylor, Co-directors of the National Center for Mental Health in Schools at UCLA, will address the issue of moving prevention from the fringes of school planning into full integration with all aspects of schooling; Roger Weissberg, President of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and recipient of the 2005 American Psychological Association award for Distinguished Contributions to Theory and Research in Community Psychology, will discuss the promotion of social and emotional learning in schools; and Thomas Power, Program Director of the Community Schools Program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Associate Professor of School Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and Editor-Elect of School Psychology Review, will talk about community partnerships in prevention. At least another half-dozen workshops on various aspects of prevention are also planned for the Convention. Finally, Beth Doll will host a panel discussion with these and other speakers, making this a very exciting and informative convention for all practitioners.

Weighing In on Prevention

The profession of School Psychology is committed to prevention as a core activity of school psychologists. The 2002 Conference on the Future of School Psychology, in its “Overriding Principles,” concluded not only that prevention was a core activity of school psychologists, but also that:

Currently, and for the foreseeable future, we are faced with a shortage of school psychologists that threatens our capacity to meet the needs of children in schools… Recruitment/retention strategies alone will be insufficient and inadequate to increase our capacity to meet the imminent needs of children, families, and schools. As a result, changes in school psychology practices and service delivery will be required to use the resources we have to maximize the benefits to the children and schools that we serve…. Prevention and early intervention will be necessary to achieve positive outcomes for children, families, and schools. (http://www.indiana.edu/%7Efutures/masterlist54.doc)

Every outcome area from the conference stressed the centrality of prevention in the practice of school psychologists – twelve out of the fifteen priority goals resulting from the conference involved prevention in some way. Since the conference, many state school psychology associations have offered professional development in topics related to prevention issues. Driving all these efforts is the inexorable truth that school psychologists cannot address the increasing social, emotional, and academic needs of the children and families they serve by waiting for something or someone to break and then trying to fix things one student at a time.

If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, NASP’s “Prevention Is an Intervention” initiative is just what the doctor ordered for school psychologists looking for ways to increase their impact on the social, emotional, and academic learning of students in their schools.

Resources

The following three outstanding web-based resources are available to provide information and resources in prevention activities for school psychologists:

References

Adelman, H. & Taylor, L. (2005). New directions for addressing barriers to learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Greenberg, M.T., Weissberg, R. P., Utne O’Brien, M., Zins, J. E., Fredericks, L., Resnik, H., & Elias, M. J. (2003). Enhancing school-based prevention and youth development through coordinated social, emotional, and academic learning. American Psychologist, 58, 466-474.

Weisz, J. R., Sandler, I. N., Durlak, J. A. & Anton, B. S. (2005). Promoting and protecting youth mental health through evidence-based prevention and treatment. American Psychologist, 60, 628-648.

© 2005, National Association of School Psychologists. John Desrochers, PhD, is the NASP Delegate from Connecticut and a Contributing Editor for the Communiqué. Jeff Charvat, PhD, is the Director of Research and Information Services for the National Association of School Psychologists. Jack Cummings, PhD, is a professor at Indiana University and Co-Chair of the Future of School Psychology Conference. Beth Doll, PhD, is a professor at the University of Nebraska. Clarissa Garcia is a school psychology graduate student at Texas A & M University. Paula Laidig, PhD, NCSP, is the Coordinator of Mental Health Services for the Stillwater, Minnesota Public Schools.