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.
As children return to school, many may exhibit signs of anxiety and stress. Your job is to find out whether these are existing issues or whether they are related to the pandemic and quarantine.
Help is here.
The Pandemic Anxiety Screener for Students–12 (PASS-12) is a 12-item checklist developed by FAR, FAM, and FAW author Steven G. Feifer, DEd, designed specifically to evaluate the impact of a pandemic on a child’s school-based functioning.
Related article: OUR STORIES: STARTING THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR
A parent rating form, it allows you to rate the severity of anxiety symptoms specific to the pandemic and quarantine and provides information to help school professionals make important decisions.
To learn more or order, visit parinc.com/PASS-12.
School psychologists are facing a school year full of unknowns. PAR reached out to three different professionals to find out how they are adapting and what advice they have for others as they embark on a very different kind of school year.
Tamara Engle-Weaver, MS
Certified school psychologist, Lancaster-Lebanon IU 13 Sensory Impaired Program, Pennsylvania
I have classrooms located in more than one school district. Our districts are creating their own plans for the school year. Some are doing hybrid; some are face-to-face. Given that our classrooms are intermediate unit special education classrooms, they will most likely be operating 5 days per week with face-to-face instruction.
I plan to use a lot of technology this year. I will be trying to utilize virtual methodology as much as I can to reduce the amount of time I am in the classroom. I don’t feel the schools will be encouraging additional bodies to be in the classrooms. I will try to create social skill videos for my students that teachers can present at their leisure.
When you are on an airplane, they tell you to take care of yourself before you help the person you are with. I think that will be critical this year because there will be many students and staff who will be struggling with all aspects of coping with this virus. If we are not in a healthy mental state, we will not be able to help others achieve one either. We all need to do our best to care for ourselves and be compassionate and patient with others.
Maria Isabel Soriano-Lemen, PhD, RPsy
Director, Center of Psychological Extension and Research Services, Philippines
We are doing 100% online classes this year here in the Philippines. I usually ask students to work with a partner to come up with a psychological report that includes these areas of functioning: cognitive, psychological, emotional, behavioral, interpersonal, and interpersonal. So that requires them to work with different tests. I am at a loss at how to teach students to score their test results. I’m also concerned with access to testing materials and how students will be supervised. At this time, I really don’t know what to do. Classes will start in November.
Heather Bravener, DEd
School psychologist, Duncannon, Pennsylvania
At this time, parents have been given the choice to enroll in either the district’s cyber program or attend school for face-to-face instruction 5 days a week. We are a small district with three buildings on the same campus with graduating class sizes of approximately 140. The area’s COVID numbers are currently in the low range, which allows for the reopening of school with face-to-face instruction while implementing recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus.
My colleague and I are determining how to best complete assessments with students for the upcoming year in light of the pandemic. Considerations include wearing a mask, use of a plexiglass divider, a pencil for each student to use and then take with them, using a plastic screen to cover the manual, and use of disinfectant wipes. We are also considering the use of digital assessments.
Once schools closed in March, I had to balance completing my job at home while supporting my daughter during remote learning. It was quite a challenge and I can empathize with parents out there who are struggling to assist their child in learning.
As school psychologists, we are in a unique position where our roles may change significantly this fall. Flexibility will be key!
Related: Find out how the Pandemic Anxiety Screener for Students–12 (PASS-12) can help!