This week’s blog was contributed by Kathryn Stubleski, LMFT. Kathryn is a licensed marriage and family therapist and senior research assistant on the data collection team at PAR.
On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, school professionals’ burnout is at an all-time high, shedding light on a problem that has existed for some time. Even without the extenuating circumstance of a global pandemic, nearly half of K-12 teachers (46%) reported high daily stress during the school year, tying nurses as having the highest stress levels among all occupational groups surveyed. Three out of four former teachers said that work was “often” or “always” stressful in the most recent year in which they taught in a public school. Teachers are not alone. There was a critical shortage of school psychologists prior to the pandemic. The U.S. Department of Education released data that the average school psychologist maintains a caseload of double the National Association of School Psychologists’ recommended amount, with many states reporting an even higher average. People in caregiving settings such as schools are at a higher risk for burnout than noncaregiving professions, and there is a necessity to focus on self-care to preserve personal and professional effectiveness.
What do we mean by self-care?
According to the National Institute of Mental Illness, there are six elements to self-care. These six elements influence our overall wellbeing, and it is helpful to be aware of which areas in your life might need more attention. Brainstorm ways to stay healthy in these categories: Physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, social, and professional.
PAR reached out to school professionals for feedback on summer self-care to manage stress. Here are some helpful things we learned:
“I don't think people realize how much emotional baggage comes with the position. I have had many a sleepless night worrying about my students, anticipating a new lesson or evaluation, or reliving a difficult interaction with the parent.”–Karisa Casey, reading and English teacher, 13 years of experience
“The emotions involved in teaching run deep and forever. There is always a child who you cannot get off your mind.” –Sandra Korn, resource teacher in the exceptional learners department, 12 years of experience
“I have a difficult time handling stress and getting enough sleep. I worry about certain kiddos’ home situations, learning difficulties, and behavior issues.” –Kelle Rowan, 27 years of experience
One way to manage emotional and psychological self-care is to increase the use of healthy self-talk. Our thoughts dictate our mood and behavior, and what we say to ourselves can fuel or tame negative emotions. In the examples above, teachers reflect on common worries that impact their sleep. To engage in healthier self-talk, recognize what you are telling yourself, acknowledge the emotions associated with it, and attempt to replace this thought with a more neutral or positive thought.
“I’m feeling conflicting emotions of anger and guilt related to work today. I provided progress reports to my student and their parents throughout the semester. Despite this, the student chose not to complete missing assignments and asked me for extra credit at the end of the semester. It would be unfair for me to provide an extra credit opportunity to just one student. My emotions are valid, but I did everything I could for this student while maintaining my personal ethics. Going forward, I will emphasize my personal policy with students and parents at the beginning of the year.”
Some people find it helpful to journal this process.
One of the most effective ways to buffer against stress and burnout is by having a solid support system including mentors, colleagues, and professional contacts. Nonwork support may take the form of family relationships, friendships, spiritual communities, pets, and mental health services.
When feeling run-down professionally, it can also be helpful to build up aspects of identity that are not related to work. Engaging in interests and hobbies, learning new skills, volunteering, and maintaining relationships within your community often can reduce symptoms of early burnout.
Increased emphasis on physical health
Summer break allows for increased ability to prioritize physical health. Now is the time to focus on basic needs: physical rest, maintaining a sleep schedule, getting exercise, and improved nutrition. There is a greater ability to control what and when you eat during time off from work. No more 20-minute lunch breaks!
“Physically, I think rest is really important. I try to keep the same sleep schedule for the most part and I'm still consistent with my workouts, but a lot of the times at the end of the school year, I'll get sick because my body is just run down.” –Karisa Casey
“I look forward to going to the bathroom when I want!” –Kelle Rowan
“During the school year, I struggle to take a lunch break. I always work through my lunch break— answering phone calls, returning emails, paperwork, etc. At the beginning of the year, I try to remind myself how good it feels to take 30 minutes of uninterrupted lunch. It is a hard balance between taking a lunch or working later after school. I have two children who I am eager to rush home and see.” –Sandra Korn
Incorporating a transition between professional life and personal life
The school professionals we spoke to acknowledge a ritual of closing out the school year and beginning their break:
“At the end of every school year I have cleaned my office, secured the test materials and files, and on my last day, or prior to, that is closure. Nothing goes into the summer that is work-related. Every school year begins with a clean slate. Having things in order and tied off is very helpful to me. Any lasting stress responses I might feel is given over to meditation. It works for me.” –Glenda Smith, school psychologist, 27 years of experience
“The most difficult aspect of self-care is creating that separation when the workday is over. It is sometimes difficult not to check-in electronically with the job. There has been an unwritten rule that we had to be even more accessible outside of our contract hours during the pandemic. It made it very difficult to rest. I separate myself from the technology associated with my job during my summer routine. I actually deleted my work email from my phone as well as many of the apps that I would normally use to communicate with students or colleagues.” – Karisa Casey
“I do my best not to think about any aspects of school for about 2 weeks after school is out.” –Kelle Rowan
Reflect and look forward
It may be helpful to reflect on the past year. Think about what went well and what could be improved. It may be beneficial to set one personal and one professional goal for the upcoming year.
“There usually comes a point in the summer where I start to get excited about forming new relationships with students as well as continuing established relationships with past students. Teachers do look forward to a new school year. Professionally, I try to reflect on the past school year and evaluate what worked, what didn’t, and what I would like to improve on.” –Karisa Casey
“I look at things that I would like to change from the previous school year. Maybe lessons that didn’t go well, behavior incentives that I would like to change, and the arrangement of the room. I also look at myself as a professional and find at least one way I can better myself.” –Kelle Rowan
Finally, we asked what advice you would give a novice:
“They need to remember that they will not get everything done! There is always going to be “stuff” to do. That is okay! Let it go! Also, if at all possible, leave schoolwork at school and don’t go in on the weekends.” –Kelle Rowan
“At the beginning of each school year, make a goal to incorporate something into each day or week that makes you feel good about yourself, whether it’s as small as taking your lunch break, meeting a friend for dinner, listening to a podcast on the commute, or working out a few times a week.” –Sandra Korn
“Ultimately, it's the life that you live outside of the profession that sustains you.” –Karisa Casey
We’re happy to welcome a new member to the Feifer family of products. The only remote dyslexia screening tool currently available, the FAR Screening Form Remote is a digital adaptation of our trusted dyslexia screener, designed specifically for testing your students when you’re apart.
Visit the PAR Training Portal for an in-depth demonstration of FAR Screening Form Remote administration, hosted by Dr. Feifer.
To learn more or to order, click here.
Proper assessment—conducted with psychometrically strong, easy-to-use instruments designed to help you make critical decisions faster—enables you to develop effective treatment plans for your patients. It can also help mitigate the mental health impact of the pandemic, which has exacerbated symptoms in many areas, including anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
PAR has developed a new resource that can help you filter through your assessment options and quickly choose the right products for your needs—tools that will help you make better, quicker decisions about what’s best for your patients’ mental health and wellbeing.
Related article: Check out PAR’s Spanish assessment solutions page
Quickly compare the benefits of recommended products in the areas of depression, anxiety, trauma, suicide, parenting, resilience, and executive function. You’ll see that many of our products are available for digital and/or remote use—so you can easily and safely test your clients when you’re not together in person. Plus, we’ve included listings for supplemental books that can help round out your knowledge in a particular construct area.
Visit our NEW mental health resources page to discover more.
The Social Emotional Assets and Resilience Scales (SEARS) assesses positive social–emotional attributes in children and adolescents. New research published in the June issue of Assessment provides further data to support its clinical use.
The authors studied the factor structure, measurement invariance, internal consistency, and validity of the SEAR-Adolescent (SEARS-A) Report in individuals ages 8 to 20 years. The study focused on 225 childhood cancer survivors and 122 students without a history of significant health problems in the control group. They were all administered the SEARS-A, finding it to have an adequate factor structure and model fit and demonstrated invariance across domains of age, health status, gender, race, and socioeconomic status.
Additionally, the researchers found the SEARS-A to have excellent internal reliability, criterion validity, and current validity when compared with another similar instrument.
The researchers concluded that the SEARS-A has the potential to be a sound tool to assess and predict social–emotional outcomes among at-risk youth between the ages of 8 and 20 years.
Learn more about this research or learn more about the SEARS.
On June 3, we held the first live PARtalks event, a FREE day of virtual sessions featuring today’s most in-demand speakers on school psychology. The response to these timely topics was overwhelming!
We are pleased to offer access to the recorded sessions at no cost through the PAR Training Portal. Log in using your parinc.com username and password to view the recorded sessions and share with your friends and colleagues. Don’t have a free account? It’s easy to register. Sessions on the portal include:
Healing Together: Mental Health, Trauma, and Resilience in the Wake of a Global Pandemic
Presented by Kristin Greco, PAR CEO, and Kirby Wycoff, PsyD, NCSP
Following welcoming remarks from Kristin Greco, Dr. Wycoff discusses emergent research around the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and how resilience and connectedness can help communities heal.
The Neuropsychology of Stress and Trauma: How to Develop a Trauma-Informed Assessment
Presented by Steven G. Feifer, DEd, and Terri Sisson, EdS
This presentation will explore the neural underpinnings of stress, trauma, and emotional dysfunction in children and its impact on learning.
Learning Disability Evaluations During and After a Pandemic
Presented by Peter K. Isquith, PhD, and Theo Miron, PsyS, NCSP
This presentation will address several challenges practitioners face when evaluating students after more than a year of disrupted instruction, further complicated by restrictions on typical assessment processes and settings.
Ethics in Psychological Tele-Assessment with Children
Presented by A. Jordan Wright, PhD, ABAP, and Carrie Champ Morera, PsyD, NCSP, LP
This presentation will discuss ethical considerations that practitioners need to keep in mind while conducting teleassessment sessions. Topics include practitioner training and competence, and steps to ensure the client’s safety and appropriateness for telehealth.
More PARtalks! Browse our upcoming PARtalks virtual sessions and register soon—space is limited!
This week’s blog was contributed by Jeremy Sharp, PhD, licensed psychologist and clinical director at the Colorado Center for Assessment & Counseling and the host of the Testing Psychologist Podcast. Dr. Sharp earned his undergraduate degree in experimental psychology from the University of South Carolina and earned his master’s degree and doctorate in counseling psychology from Colorado State University. He specializes in psychological and neuropsychological evaluation of children and adolescents and provides private practice consulting for psychologists and other mental health professionals who want to start or grow psychological testing services in their practices. He lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with his wife (also a therapist) and two kids.
The past 18 months have been a rollercoaster for all of us. It seems like a lifetime ago when we got the news that my then-seven and eight-year-old children would NOT be going back to school after spring break in March 2020. I remember thinking, “Okay, we can get through this for a couple of months...things will be back to normal in the fall.” But no! Things were definitely NOT back to normal in the fall for us or for most families in the U.S.
There are many implications for kids being out of school or partially attending school for the better part of a year. I’d like to focus on the implications for practitioners who may be seeing increased referrals for issues like ADHD and learning issues.
Although some data suggest that mental health utilization (both psychotherapy and assessment) went down during the pandemic, this frankly does not match the anecdotal evidence from around the country. It seems like every practitioner I talk to is completely full—with longer waitlists than ever. Our practice has seen a huge increase in referrals for assessment of ADHD and learning disorders, and I think there is a direct link to the pandemic. Here are a few reasons why:
Instability in the environment. Kids do well with stable, consistent environments. Speaking for myself, other parents, and practitioners around the country, there was very little stability or consistency over the past year. Here are just a few examples of environmental changes: kids transitioning from in-school to in-home learning, parents transitioning to working from home, parents transitioning to being an in-home teacher, and cancellation of after-school programs and activities. Many families experienced variation or reduction in income. Marginalized groups and lower-income families may have experienced food insecurity. The list goes on and on. Increased instability = increased anxiety, acting out, distraction, or withdrawal.
Parents getting a firsthand look at kids’ behavior and academic skills. During the pandemic, many parents transitioned into the role of in-home teacher or a facilitator of education. For those parents who previously relied primarily on teacher comments or conferences to gauge their kid’s academic performance, this was an eye-opening experience. Parents suddenly got to see just how distractible, unfocused, fidgety, and (sometimes) disruptive our kids could be throughout the school day. If any parents of kids with ADHD were in denial about their children’s symptoms, those symptoms quickly became clear. Were they likely worsened by the instability mentioned above? Definitely. But many parents acknowledged and sought support once their kids were home all day trying to learn.
Parents being more burned out than usual. Not only were kids under more stress, but parents were also struggling during the pandemic. As mentioned previously, the world was turned upside down for us, too! It was challenging to juggle work (if you were still employed), finances, kids being home, spouses suddenly being home together more than usual, and any number of other things. When parents get stressed, it’s easy to focus on the negative or undesirable aspects of your child’s behavior. These might include not sitting still, interrupting the teacher, not doing their work, blurting things out, and so forth. Even if these behaviors are occurring with typical frequency, a stressed-out parent may notice them more often and perceive them to be more severe.
Increased variability in learning. Again, structure is important. In addition to the big-picture environmental instability discussed earlier, the academic realm itself was quite variable for many kids. Teachers absolutely did their best to develop and implement remote learning options. And yet, many children ended up with multiple platforms or websites to navigate. Many did not have stable internet access, which disrupted video and audio delivery. The remote school day typically looked different than the in-person school day, with many kids completing their work more independently than before. For kids with attention concerns, this was a recipe for disaster.
Related post: Jeremy Sharp on Trauma-Informed Assessment
All of these factors created quite a dilemma. Yes, many clinicians have seen increased referrals for ADHD evaluations, but how does one evaluate ADHD with so many environmental influences? These are just a few strategies that we’ve employed:
Conduct a more thorough intake. Our intakes now include explicit questions to gauge the impact of the pandemic. We ask about changes to the family routine, including parent work schedules, parent involvement in learning, kids’ reactions to the pandemic in general, loss of sports or after-school activities, and the timeline of in-person vs. remote learning.
Pay more attention to history. With a neurodevelopmental disorder like ADHD, history is always important. It should not just emerge out of nowhere. But with many parents now seeing longstanding or acute symptoms of ADHD firsthand, this factor is more important. In the past, we may have gotten by with documenting symptoms within the last year and going on our way with a diagnosis. Now, we must look further back. Were these symptoms present prior to the pandemic? Are they only happening during academic times? Do they vary based on in-person vs. remote learning?
Be less confident. Principle 5 of the American Psychological Association’s guidance on psychological teleassessment during the COVID-19 crisis explicitly states that we should widen our confidence intervals when making conclusions and clinical decisions. This is incredibly important. Most evaluations over the past 18 months have a big, metaphorical asterisk beside the results that says, “We are not as confident in these results as we typically are. Here’s our best guess.” We’ve gotten over the fear of saying, “This is unclear right now,” and have no shame about asking families to come back in 6–12 months for a brief, updated assessment.
In summary, there are many things for us to consider as we see increased referrals for ADHD testing. We must take environmental factors into account, acknowledge that parents and kids are more stressed out than usual, know that certain groups have less access to resources than others, and generally be more diligent and less confident in diagnostic results. It’s a thrilling time, as my colleague Dr. A. Jordan Wright says, to “be brave” with our work as we navigate challenging circumstances to do our best in helping these families.
Catch up with the Testing Psychologist podcast online, via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or on Spotify.
More than 50 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Alzheimer’s disease is currently the only leading cause of death in the U.S. that cannot be prevented, cured, or slowed.
What you should know about Alzheimer’s and other dementias
Someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s disease every 66 seconds. Estimates indicate this will increase to one every 33 seconds by 2050.
Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia among older adults. Most individuals with Alzheimer’s disease start exhibiting signs in their mid-60s.
Just this month, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the drug aducanumab for Alzheimer’s patients, the first novel therapy to be approved since 2003.
Ways you can show your support
Raise awareness on social media. The Alzheimer’s Association makes it simple to update your Facebook profile with a frame in support of Alzheimer’s awareness.
Share your story. Use hashtags #ENDALZ and #EndAlzheimers to share your story about how Alzheimer’s has touched your life and read more about how Alzheimer’s and other dementias have impacted people throughout the world.
Wear purple. Show your support by wearing purple! You may even want to show your support by tying purple ribbons on your home or car to show your support.
Raise funds through the Solstice Challenge. The longest day of the year—June 20—is a day dedicated to fighting against the darkness of Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association offers suggestions on how you can participate, whether through games, parties, sports, or the arts!
PAR offers a range of products designed to assess and monitor dementia. Learn more.
Are you using a PAR product in your research? If you are a clinician, researcher, or other professional who would be interested in partnering with us to advance the scope of solutions we can provide, we would love to talk to you about it!
We are looking to gather additional data on our existing assessments with the goal of further validating our instruments, identifying and developing product enhancements, or adding features that allow our customers to better meet the needs of those they serve.
Learn more about the PAR Data Program and find out how you can take part!
Catch up on the newest PAR neuropsychological products and get a chance to talk to our staff during the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology (AACN) Virtual Conference.
Join us for a 30-minute LIVE chat on June 8 at 3 p.m. ET, where you will receive a promo code good for a 15% discount on PAR products.
Be sure to visit the PAR virtual booth during the conference, June 9 to 12, to learn more about PAR products.
PAR is proud to be a gold sponsor of the AACN Virtual Conference. Register today!
New research presented in an upcoming article in the Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology supports the use of multiple variables to assist emergency departments’ ability to predict pediatric patients at risk for persistent postconcussive symptoms (PPCS).
The study, which cites the PostConcussion Symptom Inventory™–2 (PCSI-2), followed a cohort of 5- to 18-year-olds diagnosed with an acute concussion. Each participant’s risk factors were determined at diagnosis and they were followed for 30 days postinjury. The study found that headache and total clinical risk score were associated with greater odds of PPCS. Furthermore, teenagers, individuals with a history of prolonged recovery from a previous concussion, and those in the high-risk group (based on the Zemek et al.  risk score) tended to have an increased risk of PPCS.
PAR Project Director Maegan Sady, PhD, ABPP-CN, was a coauthor of this study, which was conducted by emergency room physician Dr. Jeremy Root at Children’s National Hospital.
Learn more about the PCSI-2!