What happens now?

Posted on November 14,2012 by sthurstonmspp

Sometimes all I think about is helping kids, teachers, and their families. Finding the right resources, creating the correct plan, marshaling a team of caring adults to foster a young student’s academic and emotional success. But what happens when an assessment reveals a student to be failing due to what is colloquially referred to as “being a teenager.”
Now, there are times when adults claim this to be true and there is in fact an underlying issue that interferes with the evaluation of the situation. However, there are also times when the student is simply unwilling to put forth the effort to achieve his or her potential. And, in “economically advantaged suburbs”, sometimes that can be a very difficult thing to accurately portray in a report and in a team meeting.
Personally, I am blunt. I believe in being direct and in holding people accountable for their actions. School systems can create an atmosphere in which the politically correct and strength based terminology that is required can cloud the real issue and allow for students to escape looking in the mirror. News reports of elementary school soccer teams that no longer keep score makes me cringe. Hours of assessment to develop a report on a 16 year old student who is not progressing when she is in fact refusing to access the accommodations already in place and wanders the halls during class time instead of coming to the psychologist’s office seems a waste.
I want to sit this student down and speak to her. Girls with cognitive profiles that are in the Superior range should not be getting Fs in the most basic level of math class. Find out if something is preventing her access, but then to outline some consequences! If these services are not being utilized, then they go away.
Sigh. Rant over. On the upside: I will not be doing a cognitive assessment for this re evaluation. I will be doing a Functional Behavioral Assessment. And I will write up my results in a strength based manner, but in terms that hold the student accountable for her own choices.

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Tagged Personal Growth, Social Responsibility, School Psychology

What is a School Psychologist?

Posted on November 07,2012 by sthurstonmspp


There are a lot of answers to this question. The answer not only depends on who is asking the question, but of whom the question is asked.

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Tagged Personal Growth, School Psychology, Applying to MSPP

Young at Heart

Posted on November 05,2012 by sthurstonmspp

She looked for all the world like one of my young clients from last year. She spun in the chair, lifting her feet as it twirled, and grinned from ear to ear as she told me about her report card. But, instead of the gap toothed smile of a 5 year old, this was the full blown smile of a 10th grade girl.
I had some reservations moving into this year of my practicum placement. My prior experience has been primarily with elementary aged kids, and the oldest client I had ever had was 13 years old. I place a high value on early intervention, on preventing problems and finding those who need help early on to ensure the best possible outcomes. I was concerned that I would not enjoy working with older students, that I would miss the motivation of early intervention, and that I would be in over my head with their social dramas. So far, while I do miss the little ones, I am surprised by how much similarities there are across the age range, and about the added bonus of working with clients who are looking to their futures.
I have attended many meetings where there have been clients “graduating” from their IEPs, have talked about scholarship eligibility, and planned for attending college or taking a year off. It has been fun to see clients participate in their own meetings, and create a vision statement for what they would like to have in the upcoming years.
I do still miss the games of Go Fish and Poptropica. But I will certainly enjoy my year of Skyrim and Cheerleading.

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Tagged Personal Growth, School Psychology

To all fabulous teachers...

Posted on October 17,2012 by sthurstonmspp

The young man was very endearing in his openness and willingness to speak with me. His affect was kind and considerate, and his contemplation over the True/False section of the BASC-2 highlighted one of his greatest roadblocks to academics: he was frozen by the worry he would make a mistake, that I would judge him falsely based on his responses to the personal statements. After a brief conversation we were able to agree that instead of True/False we would look at the statements as Usually/Not Usually. The young man visibly relaxed and was able to complete the rating scale without further hinderance.
Although I only worked with this particular high school student for a brief half hour session, he was the type of client that inspires the desire to ensure that all of the hard work he is putting into his own education is sufficient to see him succeed.
This morning I had an interview scheduled with one of his teachers. The man who entered my office was engaging and gregarious. The question I posed to him was simple and straightforward: “Do you have any academic concerns about this student?” This question allows teachers to answer in a variety of ways. Some choose to harp about homework completion or class participation. Others speak of social issues that are interfering with quality work and attention. This particular teacher gave one of the best answers I have ever received. He explained, with concrete examples, some of the struggles the student was having in his class, and informed me of the supports he was giving the student. Then he said, “I am not worried about his performance in my class. Together [the student] and I will make sure he gets everything he can out of the curriculum. What I want to make sure is communicated to you and to the people assessing him is that he requires assistance in creating structure. Whatever program he chooses to attend following high school ought to be chosen with that in mind.”
It is so wonderful to work with teachers and staff who have the student’s best interests in mind, especially when they can frame it in terms above and beyond their own course.

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Tagged School Psychology

Guest Faculty Post: Latino Mental Health Program immersion through UNIBE in Costa Rica

Posted on July 24,2012 by latinomentalhealth

We left Boston on Saturday morning (we were at Logan at 6 am!), stopped in Miami and arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica in the afternoon. The people from UNIBE (Universidad Iberoamericana) were ready for us at the airport and took the students to the host families and took me to the hotel. I am accompanying the students until Friday of their first week here to help them settle for what will be a month experience, and to solidify our relationship with UNIBE, as it is our first immersion experience here.

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Tagged Forensic Psychology, Guest Blog, Clinical PsyD, Latino Mental Health, Counseling Psychology, School Psychology

Countdown until February Vacation

Posted on February 14,2012 by sthurstonmspp

I woke up this morning with a headache, stuffy nose, and raging sore throat. When I laughed, a strangled croak was all that emerged. I had, no more than 12 hours before, assured my supervisor that I had managed to stay healthy and was washing my hands religiously. Oh, irony.

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Tagged School Psychology

Recipe for success!

Posted on February 11,2012 by sthurstonmspp

“I know what a WISC is!”

That’s what he said, and I froze. Oh gosh, has he done this recently? Is this whole test invalid?

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Tagged Personal Growth, School Psychology

When I met MSPP

Posted on February 02,2012 by sthurstonmspp

Studies have shown that only about 30% of people have had a midlife crisis. We all know the urban legend: 40something year old goes out and buys a canary yellow sports car, starts referring to himself as “the Dude”, and regresses back to his younger, more immature, self.

When I look back on my mid 20s, I am reminded of my impulse to avoid the looming major life decisions. I was happy in my job, doing good work, provided with health insurance. Maybe I wasn’t contemplating a quarter life crisis, but I certainly was tempted to “coast” for the foreseeable future.

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Tagged Personal Growth, School Psychology, Applying to MSPP

Good Morning!

Posted on January 10,2012 by sthurstonmspp

My mind seemed to be slogging through some hazy funk.

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Tagged Personal Growth, School Psychology

Sparklers and Frosting

Posted on December 07,2011 by sthurstonmspp

The cake seemed to glow in the lighting of the common room, our names etched in glistening pink frosting on its sides. There was a low buzz of voices throughout the spaces, increasing in volume as another student finished the test and joined us. Within 10 minutes the class had reassembled in the common room and the chatter became loud and excited.

We had finished our first final, finished our first class of our first semester of our first year in graduate school.

The test itself was anticlimactic; it was exactly what the professor had said it would be, with information that we all knew from our months of class. But to realize that we are almost done with our first semester felt momentous- still feels momentous. She brought out sparklers, and the fizzing sparks were the perfect touch to the sense of elation we all felt.

I have a feeling that the next few years are going to evaporate as fast as this first few months, and that I will one day look back and think “Boy, I wish I was back in school again!” After all, the older you get, the less happy you are to see a cake with your name on it.

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Tagged Personal Growth, School Psychology