What should I do if my child has a problem in school?
If your child is having difficulty in the school setting, it might be helpful to first contact your child's teacher, school counselor, or principal. These are school staff who work in your child's school building, and they have direct daily contact with your child. By setting up a conference with any or all of these school staff, issues can be addressed, and solutions can be developed.
Also, it is possible to request a meeting through the Multi-Tier Systems of Support (MTSS). The Multi-Tier Systems of Support is a group that includes parents, school staff, and the student. All are interested and involved with the student. The MTSS also supports teachers and parents.
Individuals serving on the Multi-Tier Systems of Support include the parent, the MTSS coordinator for that school, counselor, school psychologist, school social worker, school nurse, teachers, teachers' aides, individuals from the community (such as mentors, therapists, advocate), and the student.
In an MTSS meeting, the group acts as a committee, where everyone brings expertise about the child. It is a collaborative format that comprises collecting information, reviewing a child's strengths and weaknesses, addressing specific problems, setting up strategies in response to specific problems, and identifying personnel who will be responsible for implementing strategies and modifications.
The identified concern in an MTSS meeting might be a temporary problem or a long-term problem that has affected the child's academic performance over time. The members of MTSS develop strategies in either situation so that your child can be successful. Some examples of temporary situations might be the following:
- A recent move to the district and initial difficulty adjusting to the new setting
- A temporary medical condition that requires an accommodation in the school building
- A temporary situation at home producing stress for the child
A few examples of long-term situations requiring strategies or accommodations through MTSS include the following:
- Long term illness that affects functioning in school (e.g., cancer, diabetes)
- Medical diagnosis where symptoms have been addressed through MTSS (e.g., ADHD, Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
- Psychological conditions where symptoms have been addressed through MTSS (e.g., depression and anxiety)
One specific example of a long-term situation might be a disabling condition that requires implementing a plan through Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. A "504 Plan" is written after documenting the presence of a disability that interferes with a student's success in the academic setting. The 504 committee is comprised of the parents, teachers, school psychologist, administrator, and designated 504 coordinator for that school. The 504 plan is written in a meeting and then reviewed (with potential changes) each semester.
If your child continues to have difficulty despite the implementation of strategies and accommodations in the classroom, the MTSS might refer your child for a psychological-educational evaluation through special education. These procedures are outlined in the Due Process PowerPoint attached to this page.
What is the difference between medical diagnoses and educational eligibility?
School psychologists recommend eligibility for special education programs based on individual assessment, observation, and teacher reports utilizing the Georgia Department of Education Rules and Regulations pertaining to special education.
To learn more about these eligibility criteria, click on the following links:
Given that state rules regarding educational eligibility may differ from psychiatric and medical criteria, an additional assessment may be needed for students with outside evaluations and medical diagnoses to assess the educational impact and the possible need for special education services.
While school psychologists typically are not trained or credentialed to make specific medical diagnoses or recommend treatment, they are knowledgeable about the impact of medical conditions on learning and behavior; they may also identify symptoms of potentially harmful diseases or disorders that would require medical evaluation and possibly treatment. Ethically, they are obligated to inform school personnel and parents of the possibility of conditions that require further evaluation and to take or recommend further action when supported by reliable and valid data.
What is the difference between a school psychologist and a school counselor?
Both the school counselor and the school psychologist work with students, parents, and school staff on behalf of the students. Both the school counselor and school psychologist are certified by the state department of education. The school counselor holds a master's, specialist, or doctorate degree, and the school psychologist holds a specialist degree or doctorate degree. For both professions, continued certification requires ongoing professional development training.
Both the school counselor and the school psychologist serve on the Multi-Tier Systems of Support (MTSS). Both the school counselor and the school psychologist provide direct and indirect services to the students, families, and school staff. These services can include counseling and consultation. The school psychologists also conduct individual evaluations for referrals to special education.
Do School Psychologists test children for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder ADHD/ADD?
If a student is experiencing attention problems, problems with impulse control, or problems with a high activity level that significantly impacts the student's school performance, then the teacher and /or parent should follow several steps:
- Schedule a parent/teacher conference to discuss the concerns and ways to help the student at school and home.
- If problems persist, then a referral to the Multi-Tier Systems of Support (MTSS) is next. The school psychologist often is part of the MTSS and may help develop some possible strategies to help the student at school and at home. The MTSS will set up some specific goals and strategies for the student. The team will meet regularly to discuss the student's progress.
- If the student continues to have difficulties that significantly impact his/her school performance, then a referral for an evaluation may be considered. It must be stated that there continues to be no single test for determining the presence or absence of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). A comprehensive evaluation should be done to ensure the difficulties are not due to other factors, including learning problems or emotional factors. There are many conditions that may mimic ADHD, including sleep problems, allergies, anxiety problems, hearing problems, vision problems, learning problems, seizures, asthma medications, etc.
- A comprehensive evaluation should include information about the student's cognitive skills, academic skills, and social/emotional and behavioral functioning. Norm-referenced behavior rating scales should be completed by several different people (including the teacher and parent) familiar with the student. A classroom observation should also be completed. All of this information will be analyzed and summarized to provide a comprehensive picture of the student. This information will then be provided to the teachers and parents. The school psychologist will not make a diagnosis of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but this information can be shared with the student's physician to assist them in being able to make a diagnosis. A physical is an important part of the diagnosis to rule out any other medical conditions that may cause attention problems or high activity levels.
What do I do if my child has had a private psychological evaluation?
If your child has a private psychological evaluation, please give a copy of the evaluation to the school counselor, MTSS Coordinator, or Special Education Team Leader. This evaluation will then be forwarded to the school psychologist. The school psychologist will review the report and send the school a summary of the report and some recommendations. If the student is not currently receiving special education services, a referral to the MTSS would be the first step. If the student is receiving special education services, then the Individual Education Plan (IEP) Committee will review the information in light of the IEP and consider any possible changes, if needed.
What if my child is currently attending a private school or is being home-schooled?
If your child is enrolled in a private school or being home-school and you have concerns about his or her academic performance, speech or language development, or behavioral difficulties impacting his or her education, then you may wish to consider a referral through the Private School MTSS process. Please contact Dr. Anna Morgan (706-546-7721) to initiate the process.
Each meeting involves at least 3 Clarke County School District educators, the parent, and representatives from the private school. The SST Committee meets to discuss the child's difficulties and develop strategies to assist the child in the classroom (see SST for more information).