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3 Tips When Evaluating Emotional Disturbance

by | Nov 1, 2022 | Eligibility | 2 comments

Tip #1: Understanding Internalizing Behaviors

It’s a fact that school psychologists are seeing a steady climb in the number of students with anxiety and depression. Have you ever found yourself having a conversation with a teacher about a student and when the topic of depression is discussed they say, “The student doesn’t seem depressed to me.”? It is important to remember that feelings of sadness or stress are felt internally and may not be observable to others! Students may struggle to maintain appropriate levels of attention because their mind is consumed by negative thoughts, not because they lack attentional skills. What is the best way to know if a student is depressed or anxious? Ask them personally! We don’t want to dismiss an area of suspected disability simply because one person doesn’t see it. Let’s explore two more tips to help you feel prepared to complete a thorough emotional disturbance evaluation! If you are interested in watching a replay of the live recording where I discuss these tips, please click here. 

Tip #2: Rating Scales

Rating scales are an invaluable tool school psychologists have at their disposal. However, as clinicians, we need to remember to not make decisions based solely on data collected from a rating scale. It’s important to gather enough information to help us feel confident when responding to specific ED criteria as well as limiting criteria and how that impacts the student at school. Rating scales are one piece of the puzzle along with a review of records, interviews, observations, etc. Think about what questions are coming up for you as you are reviewing data from rating scales and your initial interviews. Determine where you might be able to find information to assist in answering your questions.

Tip #3: Understanding the Why 

Rating scales tell us what people are observing right now, in this particular moment. But sometimes the reason why social-emotional concerns are elevated on rating scales is not easily understood. School psychologists must consider other possible facts such as a lack of motivation or perhaps the student simply does not care about school. While we still want to intervene and help, we have to be careful assuming a student meets the criteria for an emotional disability just because a rating scale says so. While the interview process can sometimes take some time, it is useful in understanding the why behind a child’s behavior. Essential data can also be found in the student’s cumulative file, particularly information provided by previous teachers. Historical perspectives of behaviors can be a helpful piece of the puzzle.

The Prepared School Psychologist (PSP) community focuses on helping support school psychs in their work with children, teachers, families, and colleagues. Right now is an excellent time to join because, in the month of November, we will be releasing a new RIOT document that focuses on the eligibility classification of Emotional Disturbance. This document has sample parent and teacher interview questions, specific behaviors to look for during observations, and much more! And the best part is, we are releasing a new RIOT document each month during this school year! Join now to have immediate access to previously released RIOT documents which cover Specific Learning Disabilities, Other Health Impairment, and Autism!

By becoming a member, you will also gain access to hundreds of resources, test templates, hours of replays from conversations with school psychologists, opportunities to ask questions, the chance to be part of book clubs, and much more! So click on the link below, begin your journey as a prepared school psychologist, and make this your best school year yet! 

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