This week’s blog was contributed by Melissa Milanak, PhD, PAR’s clinical assessment advisor–national accounts. Melissa is a licensed clinical psychologist and internationally recognized academic. She has extensive clinical experience providing therapy and conducting assessments with a diverse array of patient populations.
It comes as no surprise we’ve seen a steady increase in mental and behavioral health concerns as our society continues to face challenges resulting from a global pandemic and ongoing social justice issues. This leaves many mental health providers questioning what they can do to positively impact those affected by this mental health crisis. Some patients and clients will have a clear presentation of symptoms and diagnosis. Many others may underreport, not realize there is any concern, or simply be on a slow decline, where small decreases in functioning go undetected over a prolonged period. This is compounded in those who have been isolated (whether they live alone or recently lost a companion), meaning they lack an accountability partner or someone to notice potentially harmful changes in mindset and behavior.
As these stressors persist, even the most resilient individuals are showing an increase in burnout and fatigue, a decrease in healthy behaviors like prioritizing quality sleep, and more frequent reliance on unhealthy coping strategies like an extra drink after work to try to unwind or induce sleepiness.
As individuals’ anxiety goes up, their mood goes down—and unhealthy ways of coping (such as drinking) increase. This in turn impacts and reduces the restorative abilities of sleep and can impair psychological factors such as memory, focus, concentration, and physical recovery. This cycle perpetuates as patients and clients feel more exhausted but continue to struggle to achieve relaxation and sleep.
Mental health providers need support in their efforts to stay connected with patients and clients. You may need to track mood and anxiety levels to detect early signs of symptoms, to allow for preventive strategies and interventions, and to provide ongoing progress monitoring.
To assist you in these efforts, PAR recently launched a new assessment product line, ChecKIT. With ChecKIT, you can quickly and regularly send industry gold-standard assessment measures for mood (Patient Health QUenstionnaire-9 [PHQ-9]), anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 [GAD-7]), alcohol dependence (Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test [MAST]), and depression (Geriatric Depression Scale–Short Form [GDS-SF]) to clients through a secure, HIPAA-compliant link. Tests are easy to complete, even on a mobile phone.
Though collecting qualitative reports from patients and clients is incredibly valuable, ChecKIT solutions augment provider sessions, allowing for more frequent monitoring. This enables you to effectively and efficiently identify which patients and clients may need follow-up sooner and to identify a disconnect between subjective experience and reporting and assessment scores.
Learn more about ChecKIT today!
Looking for additional mental health resources? Visit our mental health resources page.
April is Autism Acceptance Month, a time to not only recognize, but to open up and accept individuals with autism.
Up until last year, this had been referred to as Autism Awareness Month. The Autism Society of America suggested by the name change to encourage people to move beyond awareness and into acceptance of those affected by autism. This change in mindset can help drive positive changes for individuals and families affected by autism.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 44 children are diagnosed with autism. More than 7 million people in the U. S. are on the autism spectrum across all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. There is a growing need for first responder training and employer advocacy programs. For more information regarding these and other types of autism support, please visit the Autism Society.
If you’re treating a child you suspect may have ASD or another developmental disorder, remember that PAR has products to assist you, such as the PDD Behavior Inventory™ (PDDBI™), the PDDBI-Screening Version, and the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function, Second Edition (BRIEF2).
There are additional free resources on the PAR Training Portal for those who specialize in assessing and treating autism or other learning disorders. Located under the Achievement/Development header, you can find a recorded webinar on how to use the PDD Behavior Inventory (PDDBI) on PARiConnect as well as an interactive course on the PDDBI family of products.
Executive functions are brain-based abilities that help people control or manage behaviors, feelings, and thoughts. They are critical for supporting learning and success in school (and later, in life) and influence social, emotional, behavioral, and daily living skills.
Injury, poverty, disabilities, mental health diagnoses, trauma, stressful events, and more can affect the executive functions. Knowing more about if and how a child or adolescent struggles with their executive function helps professionals put supports into place that will help them succeed.
The Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function, Second Edition (BRIEF2) is the gold-standard rating scale for executive function testing. It provides the information professionals need to make informed and impactful intervention and accommodation recommendations.
Two new BRIEF2 reports on PARiConnect help professionals—and parents and teachers—get that information more efficiently.
The new BRIEF2 Score Report includes a summary of BRIEF2 scores, including an optional ADHD profile; the updated Interpretive Report features scores and detailed interpretive text for BRIEF2 clinical scale, index, and composite scores as well as intervention recommendations and optional ADHD scores and interpretation and a DSM-5 ADHD Symptom Checklist—now together in one comprehensive report!
The new BRIEF2 Interventions Handouts, developed by the test authors and designed for students, parents, and teachers, provide detailed information, evidence-based supports, and helpful resources to improve and reinforce student executive functioning.
To learn more about the BRIEF2, visit parinc.com/BRIEF2
This week’s blog was contributed by Theo Miron, PsyS. Theo is a licensed specialist in school psychology and a nationally certified school psychologist. He spent nearly 18 years providing psychological services to public school students in Minnesota, Arizona, and Texas.
School psychologists in the U.S. report that completing student assessments is the task they perform most frequently. These psychoeducational and psychological tests are based on the basic principles of measurement theory, standardized testing, and normal distributions. Practitioners receive extensive training in measurement theory—maybe even to the extent that their dreams are filled with visions of the normal or bell curve.
The normal curve is a fundamental concept psychologists use to help measure and explain student performance; that is, how a student functions in comparison to other children of the same age or grade level. We psychologists love to throw around the numbers associated with standard scores, percentile ranks, T scores, and scaled scores, knowing our fellow psychologists and well-versed teachers will know exactly what we’re talking about. Unfortunately, though, measurement theory is a relatively obscure field, so this type of language may puzzle parents, students, and clients.
During my first few years as a school psychologist, I struggled to find an effective way to explain these types of results. As a visual learner, I thought adding visual aids to my results meetings might help explain the information more clearly. So one year, I harnessed my inner artist and drew a nice normal curve with standard deviations clearly marked out. I then headed to the copy machine and generated a hundred more. During results meetings, I’d break out my box of colored markers and a ruler and start mapping out the standard scores from the different tests I had given, with the normal curve as the back drop. Once done, I’d have a few marked-up normal curves for each measure the student had taken.
Using these visual aids during results meetings helped both parents and teachers start to understand what the different scores meant. Not only did I receive some nice compliments on my “art projects,” but I also started noticing that more parents had questions and comments about the results. One parent explained she’d sat through several of these types of meetings over the years, but mine was the first one where she completely understood what the scores meant and how her child compared to other students his age.
These days, you can keep your art supplies in your drawer. Simply log on to PARiConnect, our online assessment platform, scroll to the Quick Links section in the bottom right corner, and click Interactive Bell Curve.
This new interactive tool allows you to enter relevant student data, and then add scores for up to three different tests on the same normal curve. You can enter the name of the specific assessment, the type of score you’d like to report (standard, scale, T score, or percentile), and up to 10 index or subtest raw scores. The system plots each score across the normal curve using vertical lines color-coded to the specific tests entered. When finished, you have a few options to explain results to parents, teachers, and clients: present “as is” on-screen, print out a paper copy, or print to a PDF file that can be presented (and shared) digitally.
The interactive bell curve is a free feature available to every PARiConnect user, and it can be used for any test on the market—not just those published by PAR. So put those markers away, log on to PARiConnect, and try it out yourself.
Interested in or have questions about other assessment products for schools? Visit our school resources page.
March 6–12 is National School Social Work Week. Sponsored by the School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA), this event provides an opportunity to acknowledge and recognize the impactful work that schools and community resource partners do to support students, families, and others in their communities.
This year’s theme is “Time to Shine.” SSWAA believes that school social workers shine brightly for their students, families, and school communities by shining hope, shining understanding, and shining respect. "School social workers are humble professionals,” said Rebecca Oliver, LMSW, SSWAA Executive Director, “who often are the voice for students and families but do not always voice the value they add to the school community. School social workers shine a light on the need for mental health services, offering hope for students and families who face various challenges, and lighting the way for marginalized youth.”
PAR is happy to offer several items to help support the important work of school social workers. Our school assessment resources page houses relevant instruments Including the Feifer Assessment of Childhood Trauma: Teacher Form (FACT Teacher Form), and the PAR Training Portal offers free, on-demand training and additional resources.
President Joe Biden recently addressed a topic that PAR has focused on for many years—children’s mental health.
“Let’s take on mental health,” he said during his State of the Union Address March 1. “Especially among our children, whose lives and education have been turned upside down.”
Though we have long recognized this need, it has escalated drastically in recent years as a result of the pandemic, which has seen levels of childhood trauma, anxiety, depression, and more increase and academic performance decrease.
A recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control shows that pediatric emergency department visits by children and adolescents for mental health concerns have increased since 2020, with issues such as eating disorders, depression, anxiety, trauma, and stress-related disorders on the rise.
One of our overarching goals as a company is to help professionals like you reach these children and get them the help they need. This is part of the reason why we offer regular continuing education webinars designed to keep you up-to-date on new instruments and research as well as a 24/7 free, on-demand Training Portal, where you can access interactive courses, author videos, and other resources, including several presentations that address childhood trauma, such as Trauma and COVID-19: What School Professionals Can Do to Help: Utilizing the FACT to Guide Interventions; Pandemics, Trauma, and Emotional Disturbance; and more.
We also have a wide range of products to meet the needs of America’s children. From measuring stress and trauma in school-based settings, identifying possible victims of trauma, screening for depressive symptoms and suicidality and much more, we have the instruments you need to help children get help—and get back on a path to healing, health, and happiness. Learn more about our resources for students.
Not sure where to start? Visit our mental health resources page to find what you need.
This week’s blog was contributed by Terri Sisson, EdS, educational assessment advisor–national accounts. Terri spent more than 20 years in public schools as a licensed school psychologist and is a past president of the Virginia Association of School Psychologists.
I know you’ve been there…you are in one of your schools, have finished an assessment, and are on a deadline for writing a report. Just when you are about to score an assessment, you realize the manual is in your home office! What should you do? No problem…PAR has you covered!
If your district or organization has purchased e-Manuals from PAR—or received them during the pandemic—you can now find them in your PARiConnect account. Simply log in to PARiConnect, find the Quick Links section in the lower right corner, and click on Digital Library—there you will find all your e-Manuals. When your district has digital content in its PARiConnect account, everyone who has a log-in will have access. Digital access makes it easy to organize and find the information you need.
Here are some of the convenient features of the e-Manuals you’ll find in PARiConnect’s Digital Library:
Table of contents: Once you click on the e-Manual you wish to read, you can easily use the linked table of contents to quickly jump to the section or page you need.
Bookmarks: Bookmark pages for easy reference by simply clicking the bookmark tab—and quickly find the pages you use most frequently.
Highlight: Use the highlighter to mark important text.
Hyperlinks: The text of the e-Manual contains hyperlinks to relevant tables and appendices—no need to flip through pages.
Search bar: Click on the magnifying glass to search specific words or terms.
If you’re not sure where to find the information you need, the search feature makes finding it simple (and fast). We know COVID-19 has changed the way we work. There is more flexibility, and more people are working from home. It’s imperative to have access to your e-Manuals from wherever you are. Using the PARiConnect Digital Library makes it easy to access all your manuals in one convenient place.
To learn more or access, visit pariconnect.com.
This week’s blog was contributed by Darla DeCarlo, LMHC, PsyS, PAR’s regional manager–educational assessments. Darla is a certified school psychologist who spent more than 30 years providing professional services in a variety of settings.
School personnel have been navigating chaotic times for almost two years, and psychological services departments have had to make some difficult decisions. Positions have been eliminated, staff has changed, and psychologists have had to juggle added tasks within their department (and/or schools) while grappling with existing duties. With all of this added responsibility comes added pressure.
One common concern among school psychologists is finding time to train on assessment tools. Introducing an entire staff to new test options, training new staff and interns on existing instruments,
and familiarizing staff on what’s available can be confusing and time-consuming. Incorporating the free PAR Training Portal as part of regular monthly staff meetings can provide solutions to these problems. In just 30 to 60 minutes, an entire staff can learn more about a PAR tool—from instrument overview and development to scoring and normative data. It’s a perfect way to provide needed training while preserving staff members’ valuable time to take care of district business. Staff who can’t attend can access the presentation online 24/7, ensuring staff members are on the same page when it comes to assessment training. The PAR Training Portal also includes recorded topical and author webinars, and the training courses and presentations are updated frequently.
When psychological services departments are dedicated to improving staff knowledge to keep up with changes in school psychology, it can increase staff efficiency and build confidence. In addition, participating in trainings helps reinforce group goals, shows the staff they are valued, and improves morale. And who doesn’t want that for their staff?
Visit partrainingportal.com to get started.
The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) Annual Convention is back in person, taking place today through February 18 in Boston and PAR is there! Attendees can choose from more than 1,200 presentations including several by PAR authors and experts you won’t want to miss. Click our author presentation schedule for specific topics, dates, and times.
Make sure to visit the PAR booth (#306) to see our latest products that can help you help your students. We’ll also be offering a special conference discount for any purchases made at our booth during the convention—15% off all orders, plus free ground shipping!
We look forward to seeing you in Boston!
This week’s blog was contributed by Eric Culqui, MA, PPS, PAR’s educational assessments advisor–regional accounts. Eric is a licensed school psychologist with more than 14 years of experience. He’s a NASP-certified crisis response trainer and first responder.
Across the nation, many schools have opened their doors to welcome students back for face-to-face instruction. After nearly two years of quarantines, remote learning, and potential health scares, many educators are concerned with the overall health of their students. It’s imperative for educational institutions to have a measurement tool to identify emotionally at-risk children as they transition back to the school environment.
The Feifer Assessment of Childhood Trauma (FACT) Teacher Form is a multipurpose rating scale designed to convey how stress and trauma impact children (ages 4–18 years) in a school-based setting. This edition allows for immediate use of the instrument by educators while data collection and normative development of the full instrument, which will include a Parent Form and Self-Report Form, continues through the current school year.
Designed for use by educational diagnosticians, school counselors, school psychologists, school nurses, community mental health providers, school administrators, and pediatricians, the FACT Teacher Form is completed by a classroom teacher or other educator familiar with the student’s typical behavior and day-to-day functioning. It’s designed to quantify the impact of traumatic experiences on school-based functioning to generate specific interventions, not to identify a particular source or subtype of trauma.
The FACT Teacher Form consists of 79 items and is administered and scored on PARiConnect, PAR’s online assessment platform. It takes approximately 10 minutes to complete. Higher scores on the clinical scales indicate increasing symptoms of stress and trauma—information critical for triage and intervention.
Items were written based on the behavioral, emotional, and academic difficulties that arise when students are in a state of physiological and/or psychological dysregulation due to trauma and stress.
Understanding the struggles and trauma of our school-age children is critical to providing them appropriate supports and interventions. The FACT Teacher Form (and upcoming Parent Form and Self-Report Form) provide educators with the tools necessary to identify and assist students most in need.
Learn more about the FACT Teacher Form.