Meet Your School Psychologist

By Peg Dawson, Ed.D.


School psychologists are an often overlooked resource for families of kids with LD and ADHD By including this expert on your child’s IEP team, you gain a highly skilled child advocate uniquely able to help you manage your child’s learning challenges

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 not finishing 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-esteem. To help smooth the 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 graduate degree or sixth year certificate. 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.

Services Provided

Parents are most likely to meet the school psychologist if their child is being evaluated for special education. But in addition to their expertise in psychological assessment, school psychologists also have other services to offer parents and teachers including:

  • 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
  • Resource referrals 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.

Peg Dawson is a psychologist at the Center for Learning and Attention Disorders in Portsmouth, NH and a member of Smart Kids’ Professional Advisory Board.

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