Notes from the School Psychologists

Kara Kish-Fike, M.S. Ed. S. and Carly Wise, M.S. Ed. S.

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Connect the Dots and THRIVE!!!!

November 9th through 13th, 2015 is recognized as School Psychology Awareness Week. It is the goal of the National Association of School Psychologists to help connect students to the academic and social-emotional skills they need to promote personal achievement, growth, and resilience, as well as a sense of belonging and wellbeing. We all have potential for greatness, and we all have the promise of possibility. However, sometimes we are just blinded to the possibilities. In those times, we need to know how to connect the dots. This year's School Psychology Awareness theme, Connect the Dots and THRIVE, recognizes that everyone has strengths, skills, and abilities that can bring about positive change and achievement. A great idea to connect this theme to our practices at McGuffey, would be to connect it with School-Wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports. Consider the School-Wide rules and how these behaviors support them. Help students see how engaging in these behaviors will help them meet personal or classroom goals. Provide intermittent positive reinforcement in the form of verbal comments, thumbs up, or even (SOAR, STAR, PRIDE) tickets for engaging in these types of behaviors. In the classroom, Pin/tape the dots on the wall and draw connections between them. Have students discuss how all of the positive behaviors and actions help to create a connected and positive school environment.

ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY ADVANCES IN EDUCATION

Recent advances in technology and communications have opened new doors, making education and learning more accessible to students with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has provided funding to a number of projects that are on the cutting edge of these new assistive technologies. School psychologists, in their consultation roles with teachers, can provide helpful information regarding these new resources, which are especially useful for students with disabilities or those with learning challenges.


CAST (http://www.cast.org/ourwork/learning-tools.html) is a research and development organization that works to expand learning opportunities for all individuals through research, development, and dissemination of educational approaches based on universal design for learning (UDL). CAST offers a variety of free learning tools that have been designed and tested as part of their research projects to help educators, parents, and students create and experience flexible learning environments that incorporate UDL principles.


The Accessible Television Portal Project (http://www.dcmp.org/accessibletelevision) is a website where students with hearing or vision problems can view dozens of popular children's television episodes online featuring closed captions and descriptions corresponding to the images.


Benetech's Global Literacy Program (http://benetech.org/our-programs/literacy) offers a range of innovative products that include Bookshare, the DIAGRAM Center, Route 66, and the Born Accessible initiative:

  • Bookshare is an online library that provides access to more than 300,000 digital books to anyone who has a qualifying legal print disability, and can be used with braile displays.


  • The DIAGRAM Center uses design tools so that images in digital content such as graphs, charts, or formulas that are prevalent in math, science, and technology studies are accessible to everyone.


  • Route 66 Literary initiative is a Webbased teacher-tutor program that guides users on how to become a reading tutor for children as well as adults with reading problems.


  • The Born Accessible advocacy initiative works to ensure that if content is digital it should be accessible. Benetech has compiled resources for publishers and digital content creators to understand how to make content accessible to people with print or learning disabilities.

Preventing Youth Suicide

1. Youth suicide is serious problem. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among school age youth. In 2013, 17% of our nation's high school students seriously considered suicide and 8% made an attempt.

2. Suicide is preventable. Youth who are contemplating suicide typically give warning signs of their distress. Most important is to never take these warning signs lightly or promise to keep them secret.

3. Suicide Risk Factors. Certain characteristics are associated with increased suicide risk include:

  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • Isolation and aloneness
  • Non-suicidal self-injury (e.g., cutting)
  • Mental illness including depression, conduct disorders, and substance abuse
  • Family stress/dysfunction
  • Family history of suicide
  • Environmental risks, including presence of a firearm in the home
  • Situational crises (e.g., the presence of a gun in the home, bullying and harassment, serious disciplinary action, death of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse, breakup of a relationship/friendship, family violence, suicide of a peer)

4. Suicide Warning Signs. Most suicidal youth demonstrate observable behaviors signalling suicidal thinking:

  • Suicidal threats in the form of direct (e.g., "I am going to kill myself") and indirect (e.g., "I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up again") statements
  • Suicide notes and plans (including online postings)
  • Making final arrangements (e.g., giving away prized possessions)
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Changes in behavior, appearance, thoughts, and/or feelings.

5. There are protective factors that can lessen the effects of risk factors. These can include family and peer support, school and community connectedness, healthy problem-solving skills, and easy access to effective medical and mental health services.

6. Schools have an important role in preventing youth suicide. Children and youth spend the majority of their day in school where caring and trained adults are available to help them.

7. The entire school staff should work to create an environment where students feel safe. School crisis team members are available to assess risk and provide recommendations and referrals to community services.

8. Collaboration between schools and community providers is critical. Establishing partnerships with local community mental health agencies helps connect students to needed services in a timely manner and helps smooth re-entry to school.

9. Never ignore or keep information a secret. Peers should not agree to keep the suicidal thoughts of a friend a secret and instead should tell an adult, such as a parent, teacher, or school psychologist. Parents should seek help from school or community mental health resources as soon as possible. School staff should take the student to the designated school mental health professional or administrator. The student should not be left alone.

10. Get immediate help if a suicide threat seems serious. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

SPHS Crisis - Washington County 1-877-225-3567 - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.