The School Psychologist: A Resource for Kids with LD & ADHD
By Peg Dawson, Ed.D.
For a child with learning disabilities or ADHD, each school day is fraught with risk. He may be asked to stay in at recess for failing to finish classwork, sent to the office for an impulsive remark, or subject to teasing by classmates. As a parent, you know that even small slights accumulate to take their toll on your child’s self-concept. To help smooth your child’s rough road at school, consider calling on the school psychologist.
School psychologists often have the best training and the highest credential of any professional employed by the school district.
Most school psychologists have a specialist or sixth year certificate (a Master’s degree plus 30 graduate semester hours). To earn this degree, they have taken courses from an accredited graduate program on a variety of topics including child and adolescent development, education of exceptional learners, instructional strategies, behavior management techniques, counseling, and consultation. They have also completed an internship in a school setting and have worked under the supervision of a more experienced professional. While a majority of school psychologists hold a specialist’s degree, a significant number have gone on to earn a doctorate in school psychology.
Parents are most likely to meet the school psychologist if their child is being evaluated for special education. But while school psychologists are experts in psychological assessment, they also have many other services to offer parents and teachers:
- Screening and consulting in the early stages of identifying LD and ADHD
- Designing classroom-based interventions to address specific problems
- In-depth assessments of factors affecting school performance
- Direct services such as counseling, social skills training, peer mediation, and study skills instruction
- Referral resource for other agencies, parental support groups or local clinicians
In addition, if medication is being considered, school psychologists can recommend pediatricians, pediatric neurologists, or child psychologists with respected expertise. When children are placed on medication, follow-up is generally recommended. School psychologists are often in the best position to assist with that process.
While school psychologists are employed by school districts, a cornerstone of their training is to prioritize the best interests of the child when responding to problem situations. Parents can feel confident that if they have the opportunity to make their concerns known, school psychologists will advocate for their child in the best way they know how.
For more information about school psychologists, visit the website of the National Association of School Psychologists at www.naspweb.org.