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November 8–12 celebrates the important work of school psychologists. This year, the theme of the week is “Let’s Get in GEAR,” with GEAR standing for a challenge to grow, engage in best practices, advocate for access, and rise despite challenges. 

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has put together a list of activities to help commemorate this week. 

  • Engage in advocacy. Whether you want to reinforce the importance of school psychology on a local or national level, NASP provides easy ways to do so.  

  • Get the word out on social media. Whether you are active on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, NASP provides some sample text and images you can use to get the word out on any platform. Use the hashtag #SchoolPsychWeek. 

School psychologists—thank you for all you do to help schools, students, staff, and communities to thrive! 

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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. 

Have you seen that social media meme on “The last normal school year” that’s been going around? It has one column listing kindergarten through Grade 7 (students’ current year) and another column showing their last “normal” school year, which was, at this point, THREE GRADES AGO. Essentially, a kid who is now in seventh grade hasn’t had a typical school year since they were a fourth grader. The math makes sense, but it truly blew my mind. That means that current kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders have never experienced a typical school year. Eighth graders are just now getting a real sense of what middle school is like (for better or worse). Though the pandemic is far from over, psychologists and other mental health folks have several considerations to keep in mind as students encounter their third school year of the pandemic. 

First, the impact of the pandemic cannot be underestimated.  At baseline, children are generally more vulnerable to the stress of a pandemic because they have more difficulty understanding the scope and circumstances of a global event than adults. Studies around the world are consistently documenting the negative effects on kids. A variety of personal and environmental issues have been proposed as contributing factors. For example, authors cite increased parental stress, increased risk of abuse and domestic violence, and increased exposure to social media as potential reasons for elevated mental health symptoms. Physiologically, there is some evidence to suggest that kids and adolescents are experiencing higher levels of cortisol, eating poorer diets (or experiencing notable food insecurity), and missing out on the brain development that comes from participating in novel social and academic situations. And children have varying responses to the pandemic. Variables that contribute to a child’s response include prior exposure to traumatic events, socioeconomic status (SES), and disability status. Regarding specific mental health symptoms, research shows that anxiety, loneliness, and depression are the most common mental health concerns to arise from the last several months. Others have described increased clinginess, distraction, irritability, and fear for family members’ safety. I’ve experienced this firsthand, as my eight-year-old daughter developed significant and acute separation anxiety upon going back to school this fall. 

What about the impact on academic skills during the last 18 months? Data is still emerging, but some have attempted to estimate the decline in achievement. Researchers suggest that kids, on average, may have acquired about 65% of the reading skills and 37–50% of the math skills they would have gained in a typical school year. Studies that look at the influence of missing instructional days have shown that crystallized intelligence decreases by 1% of a standard deviation for every 10 days of missed learning. These numbers are simply estimates, however, as many highlighted the fact that kids didn’t only miss out on instruction, they also missed out on timely assessment and the resulting feedback or adaptation to their learning that comes from knowing their level of achievement in real time. But again, individual and environmental characteristics matter. Learners with a growth mindset adapted more quickly to online learning compared to those with a fixed mindset approach. Motivated learners and those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds experienced less decline or even made gains in some cases (i.e., reading skills in higher-SES kids).  

Given these concerns, how can we adjust our expectations for this school year? First, we must keep in mind that kids will be coming into this school year with widely varying degrees of achievement and learning from the past year. This exaggerated version of the typical “summer setback” will likely show wider gaps between the kids with access to food, internet, financial stability, and parental stability and those without. Kids with identified learning or mental health concerns are also likely to be further behind. Social–emotional needs may be higher across the board.  

As mental health folks, we need to recognize that our assessments and interventions for the next 6–12 months have a huge asterisk beside them. We should be less confident identifying learning and behavior disorders, knowing that kids are in an ongoing period of adjustment (at best) or trauma (at worst). We can test academic and social–emotional functioning more frequently to keep a handle on kids’ evolving needs. Children will likely need more instruction and more review. Providing stability and predictability will be important. Giving kids the benefit of the doubt and being deliberate as we consider more externalizing disorders (i.e., oppositional defiant disorder) is also crucial. Our report recommendations may shift from providing numerous, long-term recommendations to making sure we are only recommending what kids and families need right now. Relatedly, we can assure families that our findings may not be permanent, and that we can help them navigate the next several months by providing updated, brief evaluations throughout the school year. 

RELATED POST: Dr. Sharp discusses trauma-informed assessment 

Finally, a brief word on assessment using personal protective equipment (PPE). We don’t know much about whether or how the use of PPE affects assessment results. Limited research with adults (using the Neuropsychological Assessment Battery [NAB]) showed lower scores on the Language Index but no other differences. If you’re still testing with PPE, like many of us are, try to choose the option(s) that provide the most protection for you and the client with the least amount of deviation from standardization. 

Ultimately, kids going back to school is a positive step for the vast majority of us. As assessment clinicians, this is just another time for us to practice flexibility and think outside the box with our jobs. It won’t do for us to administer tests and interventions robotically—we need to be cognizant of kids’ individual needs as we do our best to support them. 

RELATED POST: Assess trauma symptoms exhibited at school 

 

Catch up with the Testing Psychologist podcast on their website, via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or on Spotify. 

 

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Trauma is the leading cause of mortality in children. Adverse childhood experiences are occurring at a staggering frequency, and they have significant downstream effects on behavior and learning potential. But kids can’t thrive at school unless they feel safe, supported, and ready to learn.

As they return to school this year, it’s imperative to quickly assess how severely your students have been affected by trauma—including pandemic-related trauma—and how it’s impacting their behavior and performance at school.

Developed by noted school psychologist and educational neuropsychologist Steven G. Feifer, DEd, the FACT Teacher Form can help. It’s the first comprehensive instrument measuring the impact of stress and trauma on children’s (ages 4–18 years) behavior and performance in school from the teacher’s perspective. It’s being made available for immediate use now while the full FACT—which will include parent and self-reports—is being developed.

Armed with the information provided by the FACT Teacher Form, you can formulate targeted interventions that better meet your students’ needs. Learn more at parinc.com/FACT_Teacher

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Steven T. Kane, PhD, is the author of the Kane Learning Difficulties Assessment™ (KLDA™). The KLDA screens college students for learning difficulties and ADHD. This week, the PAR blog sits down with the author to learn more about the development of the KLDA and the feedback he has received from clinicians on the impact it has made. 

What initially inspired you to develop the KLDA? 

Before becoming a professor and researcher, I was employed in a university disability resource center as a psychologist who specialized in learning disabilities and ADHD. I was also previously employed at three of the most diverse community colleges in California. In each of these settings, I saw literally hundreds of students who should have been screened for learning and attentional challenges but never were. I was also quite frankly shocked by the number of individuals I saw who clearly suffered from some form of learning or attentional difficulties as adults yet were never screened or tested in the K–12 system. Testing for a learning disability and/or ADHD is very expensive and simply out of reach for the majority of our most at-risk college students, especially those of color and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds. I also found it troubling that almost none of these students were ever screened for anxiety disorders or memory challenges. Thus, my goal was to develop a screening assessment that was very affordable and easy to take, preferably via the internet. 

How does the KLDA differ from other competitive measures? 

There are not a lot of similar measures, which is, again, one of the main reasons why we developed the KLDA. There are two or three other measures that assess study skills, motivation, etc., but not the key academic skills and executive functioning skills the KLDA assesses. 

What are some important things clinicians should know about the KLDA? 

First, the KLDA is normed on a very large and diverse population from across the U.S. and Canada. Second, the KLDA was completed by more than 5,000 people over the internet for free as we performed factor analyses, perfected item development, and more. Third, the KLDA is very affordable, essentially self-interpreting, and can be administered quickly via the Internet. Most respondents finish the assessment in about 10 minutes as the items are written at about a fourth- through sixth-grade reading level. The KLDA can also guide the assessment process and inform which lengthier diagnostic assessments should be administered. Finally, the KLDA is a great discussion prompt to encourage clients to talk about their difficulties across different environments. 

What feedback have you received from users of the KLDA? 

Practitioners and test-takers have found the assessment very useful and easy to administer (especially via the web in a pandemic!). It leads to very interesting discussions that the respondent has often never had with anyone before. 

Anything else you think is important for people to know about your product? 

The KLDA is a very flexible product. The assessment can be used by individual clinicians to screen a client before they even meet for the first time. It’s been used by community colleges and universities as part of their orientation process to screen at-risk students before they fail. Study skills and student success instructors have found the KLDA extremely useful to administer to a classroom as part of a group assignment. Thanks to PARiConnect, the KLDA can be easily administered to large groups of individuals online at a very low cost. 

Related Article:  ADHD & ACADEMIC CONCERNS DURING A PANDEMIC  

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The Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory™ (ECBI™) Score Report on PARiConnect has now been updated to include a longitudinal profile and an updated look and feel. The ECBI, designed for completion by parents, assesses a child’s conduct and behavior at home to determine the variety and frequency of behaviors commonly exhibited by all children, distinguishing behavior problems from conduct-disordered behavior in children and adolescents. 

The new ECBI Score Report makes it easier for clinicians to monitor behavior over time by offering a profile that charts scores from each administration for ease of comparison. These updates will make the report more useful for parent–child interaction therapy when monitoring progress over time. 

Learn more about the ECBI. 

 

 

 

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Each year, the first full week in October is Mental Illness Awareness Week. Established by Congress in 1991, this week raises awareness, fights discrimination, and educates the public on mental illnesses.  

The theme for this year is “Together for Mental Health,” with a focus on advocating for better care for individuals facing serious mental illness and improving mental health care and crisis response. 

There are events throughout the week of October 3–9, 2021: 

Tuesday, October 5: National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding 

Thursday, October 7: National Depression Screening Day 

Saturday, October 9: NAMIWalks United Day of Hope 

Sunday, October 10: World Mental Health Day 

 

There are a number of ways to get involved: 

  • Learn: The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) will be sharing personal stories of people living with mental illness each day on their blog

  • Share: It’s important to bust the stigma around mental illness. NAMI provides downloadable graphics you can use on your social media to raise public awareness. 

  • Walk: You can take part in NAMIWalks from virtually anywhere. Check out the list of in-person and virtual events. 

  • Screen: Mental Health America offers online screening for many mental health concerns. If you think you or someone you know may be at risk, these can provide a quick way to determine if more in-depth assessment is needed. 

One in 5 adults will experience mental illness each year. It is important that we all do our part to promote awareness and understanding this week and throughout the year! 

 

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An Interpretive Report for the Dementia Rating Scale–2™ (DRS-2™) is now available on PARiConnect. The DRS-2 measures mental status in adults with cognitive impairment and assesses an individual’s overall level of cognitive functioning.

The DRS-2 Interpretive Report provides:

  • Age-corrected subscale scores, an age- and education-corrected DRS-2 Total Score, and percentile subscale scores.
  • Interpretive text that describes the client’s overall performance and subtest performance.
  • A graphic profile of the client’s performance.

Save money and valuable clinical time by letting PARiConnect handle scoring and interpretation of your DRS-2 administrations without the investment of purchasing the entire software program.

Don’t have a PARiConnect account? It’s easy to sign up—plus you get three free administrations and three free reports! Learn more.

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PAR is proud of our ongoing support of United Way. For more than 20 years, PAR staff have taken part in an annual fundraising campaign. We hosted our 2021 fundraising drive last week, where we spent time learning more about the impact United Way has on our community as well as taking part in team challenges and interdepartmental games.

PAR is so proud that we had 100% staff participation and exceeded our fundraising goal—raising $106,204 to benefit those in need in our community.

In the Tampa area, United Way aims to break the cycle of generational poverty through initiatives targeted at education, literacy, financial education, disaster services, neighborhood programs, and strategic community partnerships.

Want to learn more about how you can help United Way in your community? Visit unitedway.org.

One of PAR’s core values is to give back to our community. Learn more about some of the ways we do that throughout the year.

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No one offers more neuropsychological assessment tools than PAR. We offer more than 100 products for neuropsychologists to assess across the life spanall in one place. Whether you are looking for a comprehensive battery or a specialized test, there’s no need to look further. If you are assessing executive function or memory, ADHD or dementia, aphasia or abstract reasoning—we have the right tool for your needs. We’ve even broken out our list to make it easier to sort by age group or online assessment:

Assess children and adolescents. Whether for attention, executive functioning, or memory, ADHD or learning disabilities, when it comes to neuropsychological testing, let PAR be your trusted resource. 

Assess adults. Our comprehensive list of products ranges from cognitive impairment to memory functioning and more, meaning we have the assessments you need to help those you serve. Let us provide the tools to help you provide your clients with the answers they need. 

Assess older adults. We carry more neuropsychological tests than anyone else—so when you are assessing for concerns from aphasia to dementia and beyond, we have a solution that will help those you serve. 

Assess via PARiConnect. We are constantly expanding our online and remote offerings to give you even more options. Learn more about PARiConnect and how it can help you adapt to flexible administration and scoring options. 

Explore our library to build the neuropsychological test battery that suits your specific testing needs.

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This week, Sierra Iwanicki, PhD, clinical psychologist and project director at PAR, explains the background to a question PAR often receives—when and why does a test need to be updated or revised? 

PAR frequently receives questions about the need to update or revise the instruments we publish. We often look for guidance from published literature and professional organizations such as the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and the American Psychological Association (APA) to help guide our decisions. Although there are no absolute rules regarding when to update or revise, these professional guidelines and ethical codes provide examples of situations that would prompt the need for test revision. Here is some of the guidance we follow when determining when and if a revision is necessary: 

The Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing states that “revisions or amendments are necessary when new research data, significant changes in the domain, or new conditions of test use and interpretation suggest that the test is no longer optimal or fully appropriate for some of its intended uses” (pp. 83). The Standards also notes that the decision to revise or update psychological tests may be considered when there is a change in the conceptualization of the construct. 

Guideline 2.4 of the International Test Commission’s Guidelines for Practitioner Use of Test Revisions, Obsolete Tests, and Test Disposal requires test publishers to justify the need for a revised test, stating that:  

Test revisions may be driven by knowledge that the assessed behaviors are subject to substantial change over time, by significant demographic changes, from research that leads to improvements in theories and concepts that should impact test use, from changes in diagnostic criteria, or in response to test consumers demands for improved versions. (p. 9) 

Standard 9.08, Obsolete Tests and Outdated Test Results, of the APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, states that “psychologists do not base such decisions or recommendations on tests and measures that are obsolete and not useful for the current purpose.” However, no guidance is provided on how to determine when a test is obsolete.  

When determining if revision is necessary, it is important to consider the type of test. For example, the Flynn Effect shows that IQ scores don’t remain consistent over time, meaning intellectual assessment tools need to be updated more frequently than personality assessments, where the content remains more constant over time. Butcher notes that “not everything in life becomes functionally ineffective at the same rate” (p. 263), and tests do not become obsolete simply because of the passage of time.  

Ultimately, test publishers are entrusted to monitor changes over time that may prompt the need to revise an assessment.  

 

Are you using a PAR product for research? Learn more about how you can get involved with PAR’s data program