Tag: school psychology

Wanted: School Psychologists

I am writing this blog because within the past two days I have had five inquiries for School Psychologist job positions. They were for both part and full-time employment. Many of the agencies that reached out to me had multiple job offerings throughout California, Nevada, Arizona and other states. Some were flex-time, a few added bonuses for signing and one event mentioned moving assistance. There were “temporary full-time” placements, as well – meaning that there was a psychologist on emergency or maternity leave and they needed someone to finish a contract. All in all there must have been 25-30 positions for the remainder of this year and next year.

So, I decided that perhaps I should write about the career of School Psychology and why I believe there is such a need.

I believe there are a multitude of reasons why this profession is much needed and perhaps the need has even increased.

First, there are more children who survive premature birth. These children tend to have more complicated developmental patterns and they are at risk for learning disorders. Plus, the increase of autism identification and awareness results in an upswing of children receiving early intervention services.

Moreover, sadly we live in a complicated world. Many children have been subjected to abuse, witnessed violence, been born to drug effected parents or have other circumstances that make their lives “atypical”. Schools often have to address the needs of these children and their very heavy “baggage”. School Psychologists also are called upon to to help school staff with children who need much more than traditional teaching and curriculum.

Course of Study:

School Psychology is an “amalgam” career – a blend of many disciplines of psychology in to one position. First, a School Psychologist must know a lot about testing and measurement. They are often tasked to complete full psycho-educational batteries on students that include intellectual, educational, processing, behavioral and adaptive behavior measures. (Note: if you hate statistics don’t become a School Psychologist.) The reason for so much testing is to determine if a child with learning differences is in need of special support within the school. For example, a child may have processing challenges that qualifies them for extra services in reading or math. Or another child may need services for severe mental health issues. And, a child on the autism spectrum also may have special services availed to them. These “needs” all can fall under the umbrella of “special education’.

A psychologist in the schools needs to be up to date on behavioral programs, curriculum, administration best practices, counseling, and crisis services. More and more – crisis intervention and prevention is a skill-set that a School Psychologist must have.

Read more about special education categories.

School Psychology is a field that usually requires a doctorate or at the very least a “super -sized ” master’s degree. When you have finished your course of study, internships and thesis – you are then subjected to a multitude of state and national board exams.

Most states accept the NCSP (Nationally Certified School Psychologist certificate) – with a few exceptions. California is an exception. Once you have your NCSP you often are able to practice School Psychology in many states and the District of Columbia.

There are many plusses to this career. Obviously, there are jobs available. The pay can be substantial. There (almost) is offered a comprehensive benefit package. And, if you passed requirements in your state – you may be able to work exclusively or in addition to a school setting in a private practice.

Some “School Psych” positions allow the employee to follow teacher hours and schedules. Meaning you work school hours and have a nice summer vacation.

The biggest “perk’ is at the end of the day you have made a difference in the life of a child or several. This can be a huge reward and reason to go in to this field. It is what motivated me to get up early and stay late. Each child and their educational needs was important. Whether they were the first child I saw early in a school year or the last child before summer break. Their education mattered.


Read more about this field, expectations, experiences of others and requirements per state at NASPonline.org

If you are a School Psychologist looking for a position – please see this current listing from Linkedin.

Lastly, people have asked me why I don’t practice in schools anymore. My answer is simple. I have retired from this career and feel that I can help children and families in other ways.

NEW Early Brain Development Box Set – Perfect for Parents and Educators!

NEW Early Development Brain Insights Box Set

There are a number of professionals who are dedicated to early childhood brain development.  Deborah McNelis, founder and owner of BrainInsights is one of my favorites!  Not only does she have a wealth of experience with how children grow, feel and behave – but she has been a well sought after speaker and entrepreneur for years. That is why when her latest product – the NEW Early Brain Development Box Set was delivered to my door this past week, I leapt at the chance of reviewing it and sharing it with readers.

Deborah has been known for her creation of  user friendly cards that are chocked full of ideas and activities for people who live with, care for and love young children.  This new box set is full of bright photos adorning cards with amazing ideas for engagement and learning.  Each one is meant to stimulate developmental milestones including socialization, motor development, communication and skills needed as building blocks for formal learning situations. The unique aspect of this set is that the cards  are written as if from the perspective of the child.  Give Me, Show Me, Cheer with Me and etc.

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As a School Psychologist who works with training staff on developmental and educational issues, I found that this product aligned nicely with Early Head Start and Head Start goals.   There is enough involved with this product to make anyone who specializes in child development or pediatric neuro-psychology happily satisfied.

I had an opportunity to ask Deborah what was her main objectives with her latest addition to her already successful product line. She replied: The main point I am trying to promote is that this set is ideal for parenting programs, teachers, homevisitors, therapists, and pediatricians. It makes it very easy and affordable for them to provide insights and ideas to parents, if they can’t afford to provide brain packets for each family.”

I would have to agree, at under $50 for the ENTIRE set this is almost a “steal”.  I would deem the NEW Early Brain Development Box set perfect as a baby gift or an addition to any early childhood centers or schools.

Pre-order information can be found here:  BrainInsightsOnline

Note: I received a set of cards gratis from my colleague via 411 Voices, Deborah McNelis. They were donated to a young family following the completion of this blog.

What Can I Do with a Degree in Psychology?

The Class of 2015 recently crossed the podium to receive their degrees in venues that were filled with proud parents, amazing keynote speakers and scores of hopeful graduates. While many may have already secured jobs or slots in graduate schools, a fair number are unsure of their “next steps”.  Many of those who are in limbo have completed coursework and earned a degree in Psychology.  These alumni are able to converse about human behavior, statistics and learning theory, however, are sans prospects for employment. What to do once you have obtained a degree in Psychology and have no immediate plans for graduate school? To answer this question we first will need to ask a few more.

Examine the Big Why? Why did you study Psychology? What was your vision for the future when you first entered your freshman Psychology 101 class?

Many people enter the field of Psychology because they have an interest in what makes people “tick”.  They are people watchers who can view groups or individuals at hours on end.  Fascinated by a child’s play or perhaps arguments among couples, the student of psychological behavior enjoys being a voyeur of the human element.

Each person has what I like to call the Big Why. It is what inspires you. Your passion.  What keeps you studying when you rather be out with friends.

My catalyst for becoming a Psychologist was when I read Virginia Axline’s book, DIBS, In Search of Self.  This book about an Autistic child and play therapy piqued my interest regarding a single topic in a way that I had never experienced before. I delved in to the stacks of my hometown library to read everything I could find on the subjects of play therapy, autism and psychology. By the time I had exhausted all available resources I knew for certain what would be my career path.  I had discovered my Big Why.

Read more about the life of Virginia Axline and play therapy 

While many, like myself, enjoy interpersonal relationships and social engagement, there are those interested in the field of Psychology, but, prefer to keep their days within a laboratory setting. While not for me I have met many who are more enamored with psychology as a research science vs. a social science.

If you are interested in Psychology be sure to ask what is your Big Why? Do note that we all have the right to change our minds.  Maybe studying Psychology wasn’t what you expected and now you need to modify your course and forge ahead by looking for your next vocation. Consider interning, finding a mentor or becoming a volunteer as you learn about other professions. In my opinion, it is great to pursue what you feel passionate about as long as it provides you with a stable income.

 Find out what are the most popular college majors

What is stopping you from going to graduate school and continuing in the field of Psychology?

Many people are just tired of studying.  The thought of one more book, one more test, or one more term paper makes some want to scream.  If you are a Psychology major and have lost interest in studying but the profession, then take some time off to recharge and rejuvenate.  Consider becoming a “shadow” to several people who are employed as Psychologists (or in related fields).  Sample the various occupations that utilize the skills you have learned and figure out what you need to acquire.  Don’t let being tired now be the excuse that hinders you from a successful future.

If it is a financial concern, consider seeking counsel by college coaches who know about scholarships, grants and much more. Jodi Okun, founder and owner of  College Financial Advisors conducts a weekly Twitter chat – #CollegeCash – that is chocked full of information for anyone seeking the 411 about  resources on career, financing graduate school and overall college planning.

Have you thought out of the box?

Perhaps you can use your degree to work in a field that uses “people skills” but doesn’t need graduate school.  Sales and marketing careers are dependent on good interpersonal skills, as is the travel and hospitality industries.  Education also is a option and if traditional graduate programs in Psychology are not your “cup of tea” then consider becoming a School Psychologist.  This is one field where there is more demand than supply, especially in larger states such as California.

Learn about School Psychology via NASP

The online gaming industry also uses people and analytic skills – both that are stressed in Psychology coursework. This industry is growing by leaps and bounds with many openings cropping up on job boards nationwide.

How to find a job in online gaming, travel, sales, etc?  When seeking a job in Psychology be sure to first update your social media profiles (including securing your privacy settings on anything you don’t want a future employer to know about you.)  Linkedin, Indeed and other career sites have a plethora of online job listings.  I recommend to job seekers to splurge for the premium Linkedin membership during your job search. Uploading profiles on multiple sites widens the possibilities of being seen by potential employers. Don’t forget to highlight your talents. Speak a second language? Be sure to add that to your profile! A whiz in social media or computer programming? Add that, too!

Also don’t forget that  there is a lot to be said about a career in the armed forces.  While not a first choice for some, the military has proven to be an excellent career choice for many.

In closing, while studying Psychology has been thought to be a stepping stone to graduate school and a career as a Psychologist, it doesn’t have to be the only choice.  With a little creative thinking and flexibility you will find an occupation that fulfills you. Good luck!

A Face. A Social Story. Helping children with Autism to express feelings

I have worked many years within the Autism community.  It is often my observation (and that of many others) – that people on the spectrum sometimes misread or fail to notice social and emotional cues in others.   This can lead to difficult, awkward and at times, comical situations. Many therapists, psychologists, educators and parents work diligently to try and bring social awareness and correct communication techniques  (including semantics) to those who have challenges in these areas.

Over the years I have snapped thousands of photos for programs and products via SIGNING FAMILIES.  Today I am making many of  the photos with only “faces” available in the form of a slideshow.   Feel free to download and share this slideshow. To stop the slideshow or pause it- simply press the middle two lines on the photo.

It is my hope that these photos will help promote conversation, social stories or simply with identifying feelings and emotions in others.

Consider these pictures a starting point. Notice there are no captions below any of the pictures. I will leave it up to the viewers to decide where the conversation should lead and decide which emotion the photo is portraying.  Perhaps whole stories can be generated with a single photo.  Let the child lead, if you can.

To learn more about my programs for children and adults with Autism, please connect via SIGNING FAMILIES or my website.

Feel free to add your ideas on how to promote communication below.

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Our “Trip to Holland” – the Next Chapter

Photos from  ASL SIGNS

More than three  years ago  I wrote a blog post that has since gone “viral”.   It is about our son, Seth and his premature birth story.   I originally wrote the blog as a letter to other parents and as a way to share with  our son about the “back story” of the early months and years of his life. Since then I have written updates and now I write another.

Seth will be graduating next week  with honors from Michigan State with a degree in Criminal Justice.  In 1992 the only request I made of our our son was to keep breathing.  Now we know he is has added much more to his repertoire of skills.

Below you will find the original post and updates.  Feel free to share as I wish that our story will give hope to others who are just starting on their trips to Holland.

So, as we head out to the MSU December 2013 graduation, we hope that our “little fella” will be adding yet another chapter to his already amazing life!

Are You on a Trip to Holland?

The poem written by Emily Perl Kingsley was cut out and pasted on refrigerator from February of 1992 until we moved to a new home in 1995. It was titled, “ Welcome to Holland”. In essence, it was a snapshot of what it is like to being unprepared when you give birth to a child who has challenges, such as medical or cognitive disabilities.

There is one section of the poem that I read over and over again, “After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.” “Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.” But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.”

My husband and I wanted to go to Italy and ended up in Holland on February 7, 1992. I should have known that our trip to second time parenthood would be bumpy as we were told that our second born was to be a girl. “Two girls, so nice”, my OB-GYN told me. Guess what? –  We had the first boy born in 28 years in my family when he arrived via emergency c-section! Not breathing right. Sugar too low, heartbeat too high. I could already feel the “plane veer” off course.

Days later we were allowed to go home only to notice that our little “fella” was turning the color of a Sunkist orange. Not good. Not good at all. Rushed back to the hospital to be told it was simple “jaundice”. Nope, nothing in the child’s life would be simple, I found out. Days go on and before the first actual tulip bloomed that year we were in intensive care with our young guy. Jaundice ended up to be a “liver problem” – not yet determined, but possibly very serious and could lead to severe retardation. Respiratory syncytial virus/ RSV nearly claimed his life. Reflux choked him every third breath. Our nightmare continued. You know you have a very sick baby when you can’t find room in the isolated PICU suite because of the number of doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists working with your child to keep him alive. You also know your baby is very ill when the nurses come and ask you questions such as, ‘Is there anyone we can call for you?”

Does God have a hotline, I wonder?

For any new parent who has a baby you know this is the worst part of the scenario- waiting. You wait to see if the tests are positive for illnesses that are unimaginable. You wait to see if the insurance will cover the rare and complicated blood work, machines that are helping your child stay alive or special therapy sessions ordered. You wait to see if you will ever have a “normal” life again for yourself, your family, your work, etc. Will your child walk, talk, eat normally, have friends, etc.? You begin truly HATE Holland.

Then little by little the waiting ends. Test results come back. Therapies begin. Hospitalizations end and you go home. But, for many of us, this is when you start a new journey in to the realm of Special Education. Here is the most ironic part of this story and the reason I am writing it for this blog. I am a special educator. I am a full fledge, certified School Psychologist that is trained with helping parents and children with special needs. All my training flies out the window as my mind is trying to process the months of evaluations, reports and recommendations from specialists. Ironic indeed. I have now changed teams! Instead of being the intervention specialist I now am the one calling our local school district asking for help from the Early Intervention Team! And I am so grateful when they appear at my door. But, I still have problems with paperwork and understanding all the information. How can this be? I do this job everyday and I am still wading through it because my head is so full of grief and confusion. The team helps me. Everyday gets a little better. Clarity arrives with every meeting or visit from a team member. Family members come on board to help. We get  through it.

Now fast- forward, our son improves with therapy as he starts to talk, walk (actually run) and become quite sociable. He has more hospital visits but he is deemed fairly healthy. His liver has a benign disorder and we are told that he shouldn’t go without food or enter in to the military. We can live with those two stipulations to have a benign liver disorder vs. the alternatives.

I also become a much better psychologist. Often I went to our refrigerator and I read Welcome to Holland. As I do I imagine my own fears, but also  see the faces and hear the sad, confused and sometimes hopeful voices of countless parents and children I have worked with in the past.

I am a better person because I stopped in Holland  rather than Italy.

As for the little “fella”, he is off to Michigan State University in the Fall.  He wants to help others by joining law enforcement as a forensic criminologist.   He has had his challenges, but nothing we couldn’t handle thanks to the help of caring teachers, healthcare professionals and family.

And guess where he suggested we go on summer vacation this year? Holland. And,  what team does he predict will win the FIFA World Cup- you guessed it… The Netherlands!  Well, I’ll be!!

Follow-Up... It has been a YEAR since I wrote this original post and have received notes from many parents who thanked me for sharing our journey and giving hope to theirs.  As for the “little fella”- well he has excelled beyond out wildest dreams at Michigan State University- with acceptance in to the honors college and dorm.  He is an amazing kid and still remains to this day my hero…

Second Follow-Up … My son is now a junior and living the average life of a college aged student.  The fact that I typed AVERAGE makes my heart sing, as for many  this is the bar which to aim and one during his earlier years that we weren’t sure would ever be attained.  An interesting twist happened a year ago… my son was so touched that I wrote this blog that he tried to connect with Emily Kinglsley, the author of A TRIP TO HOLLAND.    Unfortunately his attempts were unsuccessful  which made his Mother’s Day gift a bit of a disappointment for him.  However, knowing that he tried was present enough for ME!  I grow prouder and prouder of both of my children on a daily basis as they are kind and generous people who are doing the world of good for “tourism” in Holland.  XO to all parents with children that are the tulips of generations to come.

Summer Reading Recommendations from Kids to Adults

Hello Everyone!  Each year I receive a zillion books to review from publicists and authors. This year, I have chosen a select few to comprise my 2012 Summer Reading List.  Note, I could have written volumes, but I am choosing to spotlight just a few books. Many are niche, meant for only a select few – like School Psychologists. While others can be enjoyed by young and old.

Here are my recommendations, as random as they seem,  in no certain order:

ECHO’S REVENGE by Sean Ausin  Book 1  – Now this book is FUN! Sci-Fi meets Gaming meets Suspense meets Teen Angst!  I cannot write too much about this book as I don’t want to give the unique concept away. Let’s just say that it is way different than any other book I have reviewed this summer.   This is a combination book with an interactive website and engaging story all rolled in together. The story involves situations that on some degree will resonate with teen readers. When reading Echos’s Revenge, I couldn’t help but think it would make a good FATHER’S DAY gift for the Dad who enjoys the gaming world.   Also, have a kid at home who hates to read?  This book will rope them in as it integrates technology and terminology that tweens and teens LOVE! Available via Amazon here or the WEBSITE  Continue the fun with TWITTER 

SCARED SILENT  by Mildred Muhammad  Remember the DC Sniper and all the havoc John Muhammad caused almost a decade ago. I do. Vividly!  I was gripped from the first word that Mildred Muhammad put to paper. Her story unraveled with shear honesty and poignancy.  The writer is now an advocate and expert on domestic violence and the book integrates many lessons learned and “pearls of wisdom” throughout.  Recommended for mature tweens and up.  For more information about domestic violence and Mildred Muhammad go here: www.afterthetrauma.org  I am proud to call Mildred my colleague and friend via 411VOICES,

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The School Psychologists Survival Guide by Rebecca Branstetter is a gem!  I only wish that this book was written back in the early 1980’s during my School Psychology training years. Chocked full of sage advice, information and templates to help out novice to seasoned School Psychs!  BRAVO to the author. AMAZON offer this title.

 THE MAFIA HAIRDRESSER by jon- david. This book is pure joy! Maybe I enjoyed it because it was written using my new hometown as it’s backdrop.  Or perhaps because I had a blast hanging out with the author at his book signing in Chicago.  Or, perhaps because it is a fun and sultry story which made me escape for a few hours while on an airplane. Regardless, I sincerely enjoyed this easy to read book and am banking that you will, too! Book not yet launched nationwide except on website:  http://mafiahairdresser.com/

The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (and their parents) by Elizabeth Verdick and Elizabeth Reeve, MD.  I have to admit I waited and waited to receive this long anticipated book.  Finally, in my humble opinion,  a book that relates to kids on the spectrum because it incorporates actual stories from their lives in their own words!  I loved the format, readability and the content!  Another big thumbs up to authors for tackling a tough subject and giving voice to the very group it impacts – kids with Autism!

BOOKMARKED – Teen Essays on Life and Literature from Tolkein to Twilight.  Edited by Ann Camacho.  I am not sure every teen will grasp this book wholeheartedly. but, I am hoping they will. Some of the stories are so raw and honest you feel like you are sitting with these teens at a coffee shop engrossed in their storytelling.    Many of the stories are about courage, anguish and often reflect hope. Honestly, the biographies of these young authors were for me as compelling as the essays themselves.  Another great find by our friends at Free Spirit Publishing. 

CAROLE KING  –  NATURAL WOMAN  by Carole King.  Confession… I have been a HUGE fan of Carole King’s since I heard the first cut from her long heralded TAPESTRY album. I think I own every album she has made since then, too. I have seen here in concert, met her at a fundraising event in the early 1980’s and have followed her career for over four decades. I guess that makes me a “groupie”.  This book for me was a must have for Summer.  It did not disappoint.   If you are a big fan of singer/songwriters, music from the 1960’s and 70’s or just love a great biography – then be sure to sit down with NATURAL WOMAN sooner than later! Available in a zillion places!

My meeting jon-david, author of the MAFIA HAIRDRESSER in Chicago, March 2012

GoGoKABONGO – Improving Reading Skills with Early and Struggling Readers

WARNING:  I am really enthusiastic about GoGoKABONGO and this blog may make you become really motivated to learn more about  how one great company sets the tone for the world of online educational gaming!  Proceed with caution!

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I find it my job to search out and review companies that develop products and services that promote learning.  I consider it my “responsibility”, especially since I write as an expert for JustAsk on Education.com.  When I see a product/service that targets essential tools to master development and can translate in to classroom success – I jump for joy!  Such is the case with the child’s online game – GoGoKABONGO!

The company KABONGO is STEALTH!  On a single website they actively engage younger elementary aged kids to learn skills that are necessary for reading and writing readiness and more. In fact, their learning skills chart reads like a checklist for classroom teachers when designing lesson plans in order to assure language arts and reading skills are mastered!

Imagine your child enhancing memory, attending,  decoding and motor planning all with online GAMING! I told you they were stealth!  And how do they accomplish such a feat?  With cute characters who are integrated in to games that  start with simple phonics and word recognition and then become more complex with paragraph and story building.  Before you know it your child has learned basic core skills, like word order for writing, without realizing it!  Plus there are built in incentives in to their online gaming structure and feedback for parents. Lots of brain power in this online site!

Now here are some features that set   GoGoKABONGO   apart from other sites.  I love that they have a great parent forum that helps to outline exactly the purpose and the goals of their program.  Also, they feature excellent supplemental downloads and games to continue learning offline.  (I particularly loved the Kiddie Yoga  and printable mazes for sensory and visual integration activities.)

Equally as wonderful was the selections for teachers.   Here they expand their offerings to provide more hands on classroom based activities.  This company has been well “schooled” in educational theory and implementation!

Now these next comments are for special educators who are always searching for psycho-educational recommendations for Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs). At times it is a challenge to find classroom and home strategies that work with struggling readers. GoGoKABONGO is a fun way to get a child to improve visual memory, motor-planning and sequential /simultaneous skill development without risking negative reactions from the students. Planning teams can easily integrate GoGoKABONGO in to an IEP  when language arts or reading goals need to be attained at an elementary level.

Now here comes the warning… adults may want to play, too!

Try their free trial  (a $10 value).  Also, check out their beta site for older kids – SKATEKIDS

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