This week’s blog was contributed by Darla DeCarlo, PsyS, LMHC, 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.
Anxiety is not always a bad thing. In fact, our ancestors could not have survived without it. Fear and worry are aspects of the human condition that we need—to some degree—in order to survive and thrive. However, when anxiety interferes with daily activities and becomes overwhelming, it can be restraining, debilitating, and even paralyzing.
School shootings, the pandemic, increased societal violence, and a generally chaotic world have set the stage for an increase in mental health issues in children. As school psychologists and educators, we worry about the impact this has on our students—and about the subsequent impact it has on their ability to learn and succeed in school.
A recent study conducted by the Wisconsin–Minnesota Comprehensive Center (WMCC), in conjunction with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), confirmed what educators and administrators have been reporting in recent years: Student mental health is suffering, and anxiety is playing a large role.
Parents further confirm this. The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago studied 1,000 parents from around the U.S., and what they learned was astounding: 71% of parents said the pandemic had taken a toll on their child’s mental health, and 69% said the pandemic was the worst thing to happen to their child.
The increase in mental health issues among students predates the pandemic. A recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study showed a significant increase in reported mental health conditions in children ages 3 to 17 years between 2016 and 2020. During this time, anxiety diagnoses in this age group grew by 29% and depression diagnoses increased by 27%.
Every child is unique, so responses to stressful situations vary from child to child. Perception also differs from child to child, so what one sees as unmanageable another may see as a challenge.
Keep in mind, these signs and symptoms are not only associated with anxiety. We might see these same symptoms for completely unrelated reasons.
• Upset stomach or stomach pains
• Chest pain, palpitations, or increased heart rate
• Decreased appetite, comfort-eating, or binge-eating
• Pretending to be sick to avoid activities
• Mood swings
• New or recurring fears
• Increased crying, anger, stubbornness, or aggression
• Decreased concentration or motivation
• Regressing toward comforting behaviors from early childhood (i.e., thumb-sucking, nail-biting, sleeping with a stuffed animal)
• Social isolation, withdrawal, or unwillingness to participate in formerly enjoyed activities
• Increased irritability
• Difficulty falling or staying asleep
• Difficulty separating from parents
• Refusal to go to school or participate in other activities, including those for fun
• Difficulty meeting new people
• Not speaking to people outside of the family
• Nervous tics
PAR offers a variety of assessment products to address anxiety throughout the life span. Learn more.
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 and a NASP-certified crisis response trainer and first responder.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, educators were struggling with increases in disruptive behaviors. In a 2019 study of nearly 1,900 elementary school teachers, administrators, and staff, behavioral disruptions including tantrums, bullying, and defiance were noted to have increased in kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms.
Beyond impeding instructional time, these behaviors had a negative impact on the mental health of students. Trauma in the family, untreated mental illness, overexposure to electronic devices, and inadequate playtime, in addition to changes in parenting styles, were cited as suspected factors in these behaviors. Upon the return to school after quarantine, these behaviors were noted to have increased and were observed in much younger students. This was further exacerbated by increased mental health needs of students. Traditional methods and resources were not seen to be sufficient. Given the increased need for mental health intervention and promotion, strengths-based assessment can be used to evaluate strengths and competencies as part of a comprehensive psychoeducational evaluation and to plan for an individualized behavioral, educational, and/or treatment plan.
The Social Emotional Assets and Resilience Scales (SEARS) is a system for assessing, from multiple informants, the social–emotional competencies and assets of children and adolescents ages 5 to 18 years across multiple settings. Social–emotional assets and resiliencies can be broadly defined as a set of adaptive characteristics that are important for success at school, with peers, and in the outside world. The SEARS offers assessment professionals the opportunity to measure common constructs of self-regulation, responsibility, social competence, and empathy.
The SEARS utilizes a strengths-based approach to guide interventions that help identify a child’s internal assets as opposed to focusing on their deficits. This allows for a diversity of intervention strategies across a multi-tiered system of supports as opposed to making a referral directly to special education assessment. Addressing the whole child by helping them identify and leverage their strengths is critical given myriad stressors impressed on our students as a result of COVID-19.
Read more about recent research on SEARS that supports its clinical use or visit the PAR Training Portal for an on-demand training course.
What a year! We at PAR have been incredibly busy creating new products, developing useful webinars, and providing you with the tools and information you need to help those you serve. Here’s a quick look back at some of the things we’ve been up to in 2022.
To better help you serve Spanish-speaking clients, we released many of our most popular tests for online administration in Spanish on PARiConnect this year. This includes the BRIEF2 Parent Form Spanish, the BRIEF2 Self-Report Form, the EDDT-PF, the EDDT-SR, the PSI-4-SF, and the TSI-2. Learn more about our Spanish-language offerings here.
Furthermore, we released the PAI Spanish: Revised Translation, which enables clinicians to assess personality and psychopathology among Spanish-speaking adults. This translation was reviewed exhaustively by an expert panel of bilingual psychologists and offers Spanish-language client emails and test instructions, providing clients with a seamless testing experience.
More options on PARiConnect
The Feifer Assessment of Writing Interpretive Report (FAW-IR) was recently added to the Feifer product family. This new report provides scores for all FAW subtests and includes detailed interpretations of index, discrepancy, and subtest scores. The FAW-IR offers targeted intervention recommendations tailored to each individual’s age and FAW scores, aiding clinicians in creating personalized and targeted intervention recommendations.
The Iowa Gambling Task, Version 2 (IGT2) is now available for administration and scoring on PARiConnect. The IGT2 evaluates decision making via a real-time gambling task that resembles real-world situations. A complimentary technical paper can be downloaded from the IGT2 product page.
The Multidimensional Health Profile–Health Functioning (MHP-H) form is now available for administration and scoring on PARiConnect. Ideal for use in health care settings, the MHP-H can provide insight to improve long-term health outcomes.
Two Neuropsychological Assessment Battery (NAB) reports were added to PARiConnect this year. The NAB Main Modules Score Report and the NAB Screening Module Score Report allow users to enter data from a paper-and-pencil assessment and receive scores via PARiConnect.
BRIEF2 Interventions Handouts are informative ways to provide parents, teachers, and students with detailed information and interventions to improve executive function in children and adolescents. The BRIEF2 handouts are only available via PARiConnect.
And we made updates to the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory Score Report to now include a longitudinal profile and an updated look and feel!
And so much more!
The PAR Training Portal offers a new interactive course on the Social Emotional Assets and Resilience Scales (SEARS) as well as recordings of all the PARtalks webinars from this year. Visit today to catch up on all the content from this year.
Looking forward to serving you even better in 2023!
The Feifer Assessment of Writing™ Interpretive Report (FAW-IR™) is now available!
Students spend nearly 60% of their school day engaged in the process of written expression. Deficits in the writing process can wreak havoc on students’ education. The FAW examines the underlying processes that support proficient written language skills. In addition to identifying the possibility of dysgraphia, the FAW is able to determine the specific subtype of dysgraphia.
In addition to scoring the FAW, the FAW-IR on PARiConnect provides a general overview of a student’s scores, including index interpretations, discrepancy scores, and intervention recommendations. What makes this interpretive report unique is that it provides strategies and recommendations specific to each individual’s scores. Clinicians can use these additional resources to recommend targeted interventions to help their clients.
The FAW is a diagnostic achievement test designed to examine the underlying cognitive, motoric, and linguistic processes that support proficient written language skills. It is the third and final member of the Feifer family of diagnostic achievement test batteries, joining the Feifer Assessment of Reading (FAR) and the Feifer Assessment of Mathematics (FAM).
Results of the FAW help specify, from a neuropsychological perspective, exactly why a student struggles with written language so clinicians can develop appropriate, customized interventions. It also provides additional information about a student’s writing skills that allow users to dig deeper into a student’s writing abilities.
The FAW can be administered to individuals from prekindergarten through college.
Learn more about the FAW-IR now!
One of PAR’s core values is to give back to the community. We participate in many special events during the year that benefit organizations in the Tampa Bay area. Here’s a look at some of the activities and events PAR staff have participated in recently.
In November, PAR staff supported the American Heart Association (AHA) with a neighborhood walk to raise funds to help people fight heart disease and stroke. Learn more about the work the AHA is doing to save lives.
In honor of Thanksgiving, PAR staff collected donations and delivered 70 Boxes of Hope to Metropolitan Ministries to support their annual holiday food drive. This was the largest donation that PAR has ever gathered for this event and one of the largest single donations the organization has ever received—approximately 2,500 pounds of food! Metropolitan Ministries provides the boxes to families in need so they can enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.
In December, we collected donations for our annual Angel Tree program. Each year, our generous staff work with many agencies throughout Tampa to make the holidays brighter for those in our community. This year, PAR staff partnered with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, Redland’s Christian Migrant Association, the Heart Gallery of Tampa, and the Children’s Cancer Center to bring holiday spirit, food, gift cards, and gifts to those in need.
We are so grateful to be able to give back to our community with our time, energy, and resources. To learn more about what we are doing to make a difference in the Tampa Bay area, visit our Community PARtners page.
The Neuropsychological Assessment Battery (NAB) now offers two reports available for scoring via PARiConnect—the NAB Screening Module Score Report and the NAB Main Modules Score Report. These NAB reports will allow clinicians to enter data from a paper-and-pencil assessment and receive scores via PARiConnect.
Users of the NAB Screening Module Score Report will receive an estimate of the examinee’s functioning in each of the NAB domains and gather information on whether further examination is warranted. Users of the NAB Main Modules Score Report receive scores and profiles for any of the NAB domains for which they have entered information. Adding these reports to PARiConnect allows clinicians the ability to score these assessments from anywhere they may be.
The NAB is a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment that offers the combined strengths of both a flexible and fixed battery, allowing clinicians to focus on specific areas of concern across a wide range of cognitive skills and functions. The NAB consists of five domain-specific modules: Attention, Language, Memory, Spatial, and Executive Functions. The sixth module, Screening, allows clinicians to determine which of the other five domain-specific modules are appropriate to administer to an individual client. Each of the six NAB modules is self-contained and may be administered independently of the other modules.
Each of the 33 individual NAB tests has two equivalent, parallel forms that were created and normed simultaneously to facilitate reevaluation while avoiding practice effects.
Learn more about the NAB or visit the PAR Training Portal for an on-demand interactive course on this assessment.
The need for mental health services for Spanish-speaking populations has never been greater. A study published in May reveals that from 2014–2019, the Hispanic population in the U.S. increased by 4.5%, but the number of facilities providing services in Spanish decreased by 17.8%. And these statistics don’t include the overall uptick in demand for mental health services created by the pandemic.
As part of our commitment to provide access to underserved populations, PAR now offers several Spanish-language assessment tools on PARiConnect, our online assessment platform, providing you with flexible assessment options for your Spanish-speaking clients and students to assess your Spanish-speaking clients.
Administration for these products is now available in Spanish on PARiConnect:
The Parenting Stress Index™, Fourth Edition Short Form (PSI™-4-SF) can quickly identify parent–child problem areas.
The Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function®, Second Edition (BRIEF®2) Parent and Self-Report forms help you assess impairment of executive function from the parent or child’s perspective.
The Trauma Symptom Inventory™-2 (TSI™-2) evaluates acute and chronic posttraumatic symptomatology.
The Emotional Disturbance Decision Tree™–Parent Form and EDDT™-Self-Report Form assess emotional disturbance from the parent’s or student’s perspective.
The Personality Assessment Inventory™ (PAI®) Spanish: Revised Translation comprehensively assesses adult psychopathology.
Visit our Spanish-Language Products page for a complete listing of the many other products we offer in Spanish, plus you can download our FREE Language Acculturation Meter!
When schools shut down in 2020 due to the pandemic, millions of children, parents, and teachers found their worlds upended. Without kids in school, school psychologists were unable to test students who had been referred for special education services. Initial evaluations and re-evaluations piled up. Students, many of whom needed academic accommodations and interventions, were unable to receive the help they needed.
“We paused [testing], like everyone else in the country,” said Tina S. Nguyen, PhD, a school psychologist with Washington, D.C., public schools. “Initially, we thought it would be a few weeks. But eventually, we realized we couldn’t just not do these assessments.”
The scenario was similar for Tiombe Bisa Kendrick-Dunn, SSP, MS, NCSP, the district psychology chairperson for Miami-Dade County, Florida, public schools. “We did no evaluations at all between March and July ,” she said.
Both school districts began using the Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales, Second Edition Remote (RIAS-2 Remote), which was published in July 2020.
Developed specifically to support school psychologists and clinicians who need to test students and clients from afar, the RIAS-2 Remote features minimally modified and digitally packaged components. It’s administered using a videoconferencing platform, and a 2018 study showed equivalency with the paper-and-pencil version.
Nguyen had used the RIAS-2 prior to the pandemic, so, for her, “it was a no-brainer to continue to use it,” she said. “We couldn’t determine eligibility without the information. The RIAS-2 Remote allowed us to evaluate these kids. Otherwise, we would have had to table [the evaluations] or do them without all the components.”
Norma Castillo, MEd, assistant director of special education for the Clint Independent School District in El Paso, Texas, also ordered the RIAS-2 Remote that summer. With a backlog of referrals to work through and new referrals coming in, she needed a trusted tool that her team could use to reach students and get them the services they needed.
“Without the RIAS-2 Remote, we would have waited [to test],” Castillo said. “I didn’t feel comfortable using a test that wasn’t meant to be used in any other way and have the diagnosticians write in their reports that they used a test the way it wasn’t meant to be used. The nice thing about the RIAS-2 Remote is that you don’t have to do that. It’s RIAS-2 Remote. It was great.”
The quick administration time for the RIAS-2 (less than 30 minutes for intelligence assessment) can help school psychologists reach more students in less time and work through their backlog of evaluations.
“I have so many assessments to do,” Nguyen said. “It’s easier for me to get through them with the RIAS-2 Remote. It’s a time-saver.”
Kendrick-Dunn said the RIAS-2 allows her to complete more evaluations per day. “I have used it more than I typically would for children who have been referred for the gifted program, specifically because of the time,” she said. “Other tests can take 90 minutes to 2 hours. I can do the RIAS-2 in half that time.”
“It’s quick,” agreed Rachael Donnelly, MA, AC, NCSP, a school psychologist with Anne Arundel County, Maryland, public schools. “There are other things I could be doing, like working directly with students or in consultation with teachers.”
In addition to being faster, the RIAS-2 also has fewer motor demands and language requirements, making it a more accurate test of intelligence. This was one of the authors’ goals during development.
“It is not necessary to include motor-dependent tasks to assess intelligence accurately.” said co-author Cecil R. Reynolds, PhD. “Intelligence tests should emphasize thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving.”
“The RIAS-2 is just as good a measure of cognitive ability and overall full-scale IQ than any other test that maybe has a million manipulatives that may impede or impact the validity,” Donnelly said. “It does a good job of measuring intelligence purely.”
With straightforward administration and clear directions, school psychologists also find that the RIAS-2 is easier for students to understand, giving them confidence that results are valid.
“I never have any fears that a student’s response is because they don’t understand what I’m asking them,” Nguyen said. “That is helpful. It’s clear their score is their score because they [do or] don’t know the answer, not because they didn’t understand what to do.
“On other intelligence tests,” she added, “[if] there’s a subtest that the kids don’t understand. They bomb completely. The examples confuse them. I’m grateful for the RIAS-2. It’s simple, straightforward direction.”
More than two years post-pandemic, most students are now back to in-person learning. However, school psychologists continue to be overwhelmed and understaffed—and an uptick in mental health and academic concerns means more referrals and more evaluations.
With a faster administration time, the RIAS-2 and RIAS-2 Remote can help them continue to work through their case loads quicker and meet the needs of all the children they serve.
“If the student for some reason is not able to come to school, it’s okay because they can do a portion of the evaluation remotely now,” Castillo said. “It’s another piece of mind.”
“I’m glad that we [will continue to] have the remote option,” Kendrick-Dunn said, “so we can make the best clinical decision based on the needs of the child.”
Learn more about remote assessment and using the RIAS-2 in one of our free PARtalks webinars available on the PAR Training Portal. Learn more about the development of RIAS-2 from coauthor Cecil R. Reynolds, PhD, in this video.
For more than 100 years, the 11th day of the 11th month has been set aside as a day to recognize and honor America’s servicemembers—it’s a day to publicly say “thank you” to all living veterans—all ages, all ranks, all branches, all years.
At PAR, we recognize that freedom is not free and we thank America’s service members for their dedication, bravery, and courage. We would also like to acknowledge PAR employees who have spent time in uniform: Adam Barrett-Clarke, Teri Lyon, Mike Nolan, and Greg Schmitt.
We know veterans can face unique obstacles while serving and after separation or retirement from the military. Several of our assessment tools can help you better serve those clients and patients. The Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI) evaluates a broad range of disorders, including PTSD, anxiety and depression, and substance use. The Trauma Symptom Inventory-2 (TSI-2) evaluates the effects of traumatic events including combat, sexual and physical assault, abuse and neglect, and more. And for those service members who aren’t sure how they should follow their military careers, this Veteran SDS white paper can help you help them find a rewarding career.
The week of November 7–11 is National School Psychology Week (NSPW). Being a school psychologist has always been crucial, and given the current shortage of school psychologists, along with increasing demand for your services, your role is more demanding—and important—than ever. If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, here are some resources and supports that may help.
Sponsored by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), the theme for NSPW this year is “Together We Shine.” The events of the past few years have led to disconnection and even isolation. While we each have an inner light, when we work together, we can shine brighter to help others in our schools and in our communities.
Here are some suggested activities for NSPW:
Counselors: Help students see the power of working together by focusing on these skills.
Help students develop their social and active listening skills.
Engage students in discussions about building self-esteem and confidence.
Encourage students to develop social connections.
Schools: Offer additional activities that emphasize togetherness.
Hold a scavenger hunt, asking students to find someone who makes a positive contribution to the school.
Initiate classroom discussions that encourage active listening, and discuss how different opinions can lead to enlightenment.
Inspire students to express gratitude by having school administrators, teachers, and staff model the behavior.
PAR would like to thank all school psychologists for the essential services they provide to their students, and for placing your trust in our instruments.
Looking for more information about PAR school resources and assessments? Visit our school resources page.