"Handing Out" School Psychology

By: Barry Barbarasch, NASP GPR Northeast Regional Coordinator

The other day I was talking with a friend and colleague about their role as a school psychologist in their district. They were telling me that they were anticipating providing comprehensive mental health services to all children in their schools. However, in one school, they were advised that they should only provide mental health services to special education students. My friend was feeling somewhat frustrated by this, but was still determined to find ways to provide these services to all children, though they felt it was a process that would take time and patience.

The idea of school psychologists providing mental health services to all children is one that resonates with most school psychologists. However, as school psychology has in many places become closely aligned with special education, providing these services to all children can be challenging. I would like to share how NASP and, more recently, the New Jersey Association of School Psychologists have been utilizing an educative approach to advocating for providing school psychological services to all children.  

Several years ago NASP began sponsoring a booth at the National Education Association convention, which, as you may know, is attended by thousands of teachers each year. At the NASP booth are dozens of handouts for teachers to take. These handouts do not focus on what school psychology is, but illustrate the types of knowledge and skills school psychologists possess, and, as a result, how school psychologists can be valuable resources for all teachers. For example, the handouts covered academic, behavioral, and social interventions; grade retention; social-emotional learning; bullying; suicide prevention; and much more. However, of equal value is the opportunity this affords school psychologists to talk with teachers. Often, teachers will browse through the handouts, but also want to talk about their interests, concerns, and challenges. This gives us the opportunity share with them how their district school psychologist can assist them in addressing their concerns, and we encourage them to follow up with their school psychologist. While its somewhat difficult to measure the impact of our efforts, we have noticed many repeat customers, who had previously visited our booth and were looking for any new material we had. We have also had teachers tell us that one of their colleagues, or a state representative, suggested they stop by our booth.   

In New Jersey, the service delivery model in effect closely aligns school psychologists with special education. In this case, we felt that we needed to educate administrators as to the array of skills school psychologists can bring to their school population. As a result, we have been exhibitors at the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Conference for the last 2 years, utilizing the same strategy. Quite honestly, it is too early to determine the impact our presence is having on administrators and supervisors. However, we are hopeful that school administrators will more frequently see school psychologists as resources and utilize them in address issues relating to all children.   Advocating for school psychologists providing comprehensive school psychological services to all children has become a focus of our efforts. It seems that an important step in this process is educating school personnel-both teachers and administrators-regarding the full range of skills school psychologists possess, and the comprehensive services we can provide. Having a presence at conferences/conventions that attract teachers and administrators would seem to be an effective and economical way of achieving this goal.

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