What Does A School Psychologist Do?
School psychologists play a very vital role in the healthy social, emotional and mental health development of students in school. Students today are under a lot of stress as they try to navigate academic work, co-curricular activities and societal pressures and expectations. Pressure from their parents to excel combined with expectations from teachers and the school system itself to pass tests and the need to deal with such issues as bullying and peer pressure can take its toll on regular students.
The pressure to thrive in a school environment can even be harder on young learners who are dealing with learning disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia and dysgraphia, among others as well as those who have experienced abuse or are living in a troubled home environment in the midst of feuding parents. It is these students that school psychologists help in their work.
In a nutshell, school psychologists advocate for the wellbeing of the students. They listen to the problems and concerns that students may have in school. These can range from finding certain subjects like math very challenging to understand to having low self-esteem to bullying to difficulty saying no to peer pressure. At other times, the school psychologist may have to dig deeper and employ different kinds of psychological tests and assessment strategies to determine what a student’s problem is.
These tests can uncover learning disorders or problems involving parents at home. Issues like divorce can have a very detrimental effect on even the most well-adjusted student that it’s crucial for school psychologists to identify the real issues behind the behavioral problems of these students so that the proper interventions can be given.
The school psychologist may also talk with the teachers and parents of the student as part of the assessment process. They may also coordinate with the doctor of special children to craft the most appropriate interventions in school for them. After performing the necessary evaluative steps to determine the cause of a student’s problems at school, the psychologist will then help the student to process the issue and counsel them on the best coping strategies. They may also recommend individual counseling or family counseling sessions if the situation warrants it.
If the initial assessment of the situation reveals that a student is facing an issue that is best handled by another professional—such as a psychiatrist or a neuropsychologist—the school psychologist will make the necessary recommendations.
School psychologists also work with school authorities to design programs that would foster a positive learning environment. For example, they may implement positive disciplinary strategies and promote a culture of connectedness. One of their responsibilities involves the review of disciplinary practices for students who are having issues at school. If they believe that the disciplinary action is too much or will not rehabilitate a student, they will make their recommendations advising against it. They also help teachers and administrators identify at-risk students and figure out ways to help them. Psychologists are also at the forefront of designing crisis prevention and emergency interventions that can readily address these issues as they arise.
The academic performance of students is not only the concern of teachers but that of school psychologists as well. In this role, they gather student data, interpret them and figure out ways to improve instruction—both group and individual—delivered in the classroom. Because of their knowledge and training, school psychologists are able to spot inappropriate recommendations made by teachers to put a particular student in a special education class when they don’t really need to be.
The school is also a place where students learn how to interact with others and develop their social coping skills. School psychologists design programs that would enable students to communicate well with others and cultivate positive relationships with people of various ages. They also teach students ways to manage their anger and work towards the peaceful resolution of their problems.
Schools are culturally diverse places where students from differing cultural and social backgrounds converge. It is also a place where students with physical and mental disabilities are mixed together with regular students. These scenarios lend itself to particular dynamics which, in many cases, have those with disabilities or are different from the rest because of their color or cultural background getting discriminated upon or made fun of. To address these problems, school psychologists come up with programs and services that respond to the needs of these learners. They also become part of the team that craft Individualized Educational Programs for learners who have special needs.