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.
Clinicians and researchers—are you using a PAR product in your research? If you a professional who would be interested in partnering with us to advance the scope of solutions PAR provides, 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, developing and identifying 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!
Already the most reliable platform in the industry, PARiConnect continues to grow by adding features that complement your online practice.
One of our newest additions to PARiConnect is the introduction of the interactive bell curve, where you can personalize the interactive bell curve, input multiple scores, quickly assess and visually capture how a client scores in relation to others, and easily explain assessment results to clients/parents. The interactive bell curve can be accessed within the PARiConnect Quick Links section.
Another new feature is the Digital Library. The Digital Library is an online location within PARiConnect that stores all e-Manuals purchased from PAR in one convenient place. Simply log into your PARiConnect account to access all your materials. Once you are logged in, you can find the Digital Library under the Quick Links section. Now you can easily access your materials from most internet-connected devices.
Plus, we’ve added new assessments to the platform, like the Dementia Rating Scale—2™ (DRS-2™), Brief Visuospatial Memory Test—Revised™ (BVMT-R™), the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test—Revised™ (HVLT-R™), the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test® (WCST®), and the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test® 64-Card Version (WCST-64™).
Don’t have a PARiConnect account? Register for free and get 3 free assessments and reports.
Want to learn more? Join Daniel McFadden for a free webinar on the Digital Library and the ChecKIT family of products on February 10. Register here! Can’t make this one? We have other PARiConnect tutorials and webinars located on our Training Portal. Sign up or login for free.
This week’s blog was contributed by Carrie Champ Morera, PsyD, lead project and content director, and Theo Miron, PsyS, regional manager–educational assessments.
Why should psychologists and other clinicians assess for emotional disturbance (ED) in the school setting? Parents and caregivers of 8.3 million school-aged children (ages 4 to 17 years) have sought help from school staff or mental health professionals about their child’s emotional or behavioral difficulties. Approximately 7.5% of children ages 6 to 17 years used prescribed medication during the past 6 months for emotional or behavioral difficulties. Assessment of ED is necessary in the school setting to help children obtain the emotional and behavioral support services they need to be successful.
Over the past 20 years, the number of students served within special education has steadily increased, while the number of students being served under ED eligibilities has steadily decreased. For example, during the 2000–2001 school year, 6.29 million students received special education services with 7.6% of those students identified as having an ED. Although the population of students receiving special education services grew by almost one million children to 7.13 million over the next 18 years, only 5% were identified as having an ED during the 2018–2019 school year.
How can we improve ED identification and help children obtain the services they need to be successful in school? It is the school’s responsibility and a school psychologist’s professional role to find children who are struggling emotionally and behaviorally, identify them through the evaluation process, and then connect them with appropriate services and interventions so they can begin to heal and make educational, social, emotional, and behavioral progress.
When completing assessments for ED, we need to carefully consider and adhere to specific eligibility criteria while distinguishing the difference between social maladjustment (SM) and ED. Practitioners also need to consider DSM-V-related diagnoses as well as the impact of trauma, adverse childhood experiences (ACES), and the pandemic on the child’s functioning. It is also imperative to be cognizant of racial disproportionality in determining eligibility for ED services (see NASP Position Statement: Racial and Ethnic Disproportionality in Education).
Assessments of ED need to be comprehensive and include multiple tests and information from a variety of sources. Clinical interviews with the student, caregivers, and teachers, as well as observations of the student in the natural environment are paramount. Trauma, ACES, and the pandemic also need to be considered in the assessment of ED. Childhood adversity is a broad term that refers to a wide range of circumstances or events that pose a serious threat to a child’s physical or psychological wellbeing, including child abuse, neglect, divorce, bullying, poverty, and community violence. Adverse experiences can have profound consequences, particularly when they occur early in life, are chronic, and accumulate over time. Trauma is an outcome of exposure to adversity while adversities are the cause of trauma. Trauma affects everyone differently, depending on individual, family, and environmental risk, as well as protective factors.
Repeated or prolonged trauma in addition to the effects of the pandemic can have a litany of adverse outcomes on our children in the areas of cognition, brain development, behavior, emotions, mental health, physical health, and relationships. These factors need to be considered in a comprehensive evaluation for ED.
Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen a significant increase in kids struggling with both emotional and behavioral difficulties. This increase may lead to an uptick in the number of ED-related assessment referrals that come across our desks and the number of students who require special education services. This leads us into how we assess children for an ED and the benefits of using the Emotional Disturbance Decision Tree (EDDT).
Dr. Bryan Euler, the author of the EDDT, has worked as a school counselor, diagnostician, lead school psychologist, and a clinical psychologist. While working in the Albuquerque public schools, Dr. Euler teamed up with PAR to create the EDDT to provide a standardized approach to the assessment of ED. It was designed to directly address the framework of the federal ED eligibility criteria; for every component of the federal ED criteria, there’s a corresponding EDDT scale or cluster. The scales within the assessment are written to address these broad domains thoroughly, then help school psychologists apply the specific criteria to make informed decisions on both eligibility and programming.
The EDDT includes all the relevant aspects of the federal ED criteria. It contains scales and clusters that address each of the specific ED criteria. The structure of the EDDT walks the practitioner through each area of the federal ED criteria.
Bryan Euler, PhD, describes the benefits of the EDDT and the importance of multiple informants, including the student’s perspective, here.
There are several best practices to keep in mind with the EDDT: Include the viewpoint of multiple raters (teacher, parent, and/or self) from different settings (school, home, and community). Use the EDDT as part of a comprehensive evaluation to determine ED eligibility. In addition to the EDDT, be sure to include qualitative information such as interviews (from the student, parents, and/or teachers) and observations across school settings to supplement the data received on the EDDT.
Carrie Champ Morera, PsyD and Theo Miron, PsyS will present on the EDDT at the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) annual convention in February. In their presentation, Assessing Emotional Disturbance in Schools Using the Emotional Disturbance Decision Tree (EDDT), they will explore the features and trends in ED and investigate the structure and use of the EDDT. If you attend NASP, feel free to stop by the PAR booth to learn more about how PAR can meet your assessment needs.
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.
Upon returning to school in fall 2021, my 8-year-old daughter started showing signs of separation anxiety almost immediately. She would not go into the classroom on her own and developed a compulsive habit of checking the weather before school each day to see if it was going to rain. Over the course of a couple of weeks, we spent hours on the playground before (and during) school, attempting to cajole her into feeling safe. We eventually enlisted the help of the fantastic school psychologist who helped our daughter get over her fears and go in on her own within another two to three weeks.
Though her separation anxiety seemed to come out of nowhere, hindsight would say otherwise. The biggest clue was that she started a new, much bigger school this year. She was also having trouble making friends, which was different for her. The final piece of the puzzle was learning that a classmate had shared information about a flood warning with my daughter, and she became scared that there might be a flood while she was at school—hence the checking of the weather every morning.
Related post: Jeremy Sharp on trauma-informed assessment
My daughter is not alone. Depending on what you read, estimates on prevalence of anxiety disorders in kids ages 3–17 range from about 2% to more than 30%, with a recent meta-analysis settling on about 7%. That’s two kids in your average classroom who are experiencing clinical anxiety, with even more who have subthreshold anxiety.
There are many reasons that kids might feel anxious at school, but let’s break it down into three areas for the sake of simplicity. Those areas are:
Separation from caregivers
Separation anxiety is the most common form of anxiety in kids under 12. The core theme of separation anxiety is “excessive distress” when separated from or thinking about separating from a primary attachment figure or caregiver. At school, this looks like unwillingness to get out of the car, clinging to a parent’s leg, not leaving the caregiver to go into the classroom, and other similar situations. As in my daughter’s case, it can also show up as a fear of an event that would cause separation from the primary attachment figure. Separation anxiety often ramps up after breaks, like when returning to school after the holidays or summer vacation. Even a typical Monday can increase anxiety, as kids have gotten used to being with caregivers over the weekend.
Social interaction is another area of potential distress in kids. The clinical diagnosis of social anxiety disorder is estimated to occur in about 9% of adolescents (ages 13–18 years). Social anxiety is characterized by the fear of being judged by others paired with avoidance of certain situations that cause anxiety. An example is eating lunch alone due to a fear of saying something “dumb” while sitting with peers.
Lastly, academic demands can lead to anxiety in kids. Research suggests that around 20% of students experience test anxiety overall, though it differs depending on several demographic factors. For instance, female-identifying students and ethnic minority students are more likely to experience test anxiety. Regarding personality factors, there is a consistent negative relationship between self-esteem/self-concept and test anxiety. Students with disabilities (i.e., ADHD) are more likely to experience test anxiety than students without an identified disability. Additionally, test anxiety’s negative impact on performance is highest in middle school and decreases in high school. It’s important to note that text anxiety is not the only form of performance anxiety in school, however. Some students feel a variation of social anxiety or fear of being called on in class as well.
This information confirms what we already intuitively know: as “front line” workers in pediatric mental health, school staff plays a very important role in kids’ social and emotional wellbeing. Indeed, the research is clear that kids learn better when they also have skills to manage their emotions. But it’s not always easy to know which students need help! Anxiety is an internalizing disorder, meaning that kids tend to feel it in their minds or bodies without necessarily expressing it overtly to others. What we do know is that kids from lower income homes and ethnic minority kids are at greater risk of “flying under the radar” and not receiving the support that other kids get. We also know that school is a great place to implement interventions given that so many barriers to accessing treatment are removed when kids are already there.
So, what school-based interventions actually work? A recent meta-analysis of prevention programs showed that cognitive-behavioral strategies make up the vast majority of interventions in the academic environment. The effect sizes across all forms of intervention were small but statistically significant, indicating that prevention programs are certainly helpful in addressing anxiety. The study looked deeper into whether the type of program (universal vs. targeted) made a difference and found that it did not. Similarly, it didn’t matter whether school staff (i.e., teachers, school counselors) or an external mental health professional delivered the intervention. The research suggests, however, that intervention be delivered as early as possible, in a preventative context, given the relatively early age of onset of anxiety.
To summarize, a substantial minority of kids will experience some form of anxiety at school before finishing high school, but there are ways to help. School counselors and teachers are in a great place to do so. Being mindful of anxiety as an internalizing disorder and paying attention to kids who tend to fly under the radar are excellent places to start. Knowing the different types of anxiety and the places they show up are valuable as well. On a broader scale, prevention programs are helpful and effective, especially when delivered earlier rather than later.
Catch up with the Testing Psychologist podcast on their website, via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or on Spotify.
Related: School resources to help you address trauma, anxiety, and more.
In observance of the holiday season, the PAR offices will close at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, December 22. We will reopen at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, December 28.
PAR offices will close in celebration of the new year at 4 p.m. on Thursday, December 30, and reopen at 8 a.m. on Monday, January 3.
As the year comes to a close, we at PAR look back and are incredibly thankful for the trust you put in us to provide you with the tools you need to help those you serve. We look forward to continuing to serve you in 2022.