The Educational Psychologist
Educational Psychology is the art of diagnosing the reasons for a child’s behaviour or learning difficulties.
A good educational psychologist will spend time getting to know your child, either by observing them in a variety of settings or, taking time to put a child at ease before beginning the formal assessment process. They will conduct a variety of tests and sub-tests to pin-point areas of difficulty, explain their findings in plain English and recommend strategies that will help.
The Educational Psychologist – A bit of background
Educational psychologists (EPs) have a teaching background, a first degree in psychology and a higher degree in educational psychology.
Some EPs run private practices others are employed by the LA to work in collaboration with teachers, parents, carers and other agencies to promote inclusion in schools and to develop strategies aimed at enhancing a child’s learning and development. In addition to individual casework EPs may visit schools to talk with teachers about ways of meeting the needs of individuals or groups of children. They may also work with teachers on projects that address whole school issues, run courses for school staff on particular topics of concern or interest, and meet with parents or carers who have concerns about a child.
What does an Educational Psychologist do?
EPs study how children develop, using appropriate assessment methods to identify the nature of any underlying SEN.
In addition to knowledge of specific difficulties that affect learning, for example dyslexia or autism, they can help by suggesting effective teaching and learning approaches such as positive behaviour management or ways to intervene with children and young people which help them change.
Additionally a good EPs will have a thorough grasp of current legislation, local policy, procedures and national research.
Consulting an EP
When an EP is asked to become involved with an individual child, the first step is for the school to arrange a consultation meeting that involves those who know the child well, usually parents or carers, teachers, the SENCo and the EP. The purpose of this initial meeting is to examine concerns and agree a plan of action to improve the child’s progress. This may involve the EP working with the child’s teachers or with the child directly.
Parents and carers should always be fully involved and if necessary a consultation with the child and EP will be arranged.
EPs often begin by observing the child in class as it helps to see the child in their regular environment. If a child is to have a consultation with the EP the child should, wherever possible, be prepared for this. There is no right way but it is usually best to be as truthful as possible, explaining in a way that the child will understand and will not frighten or intimidate him. (Ask the EP for Leaflets/ help sheets that advise on what to tell a child about an EP).
When child and EP meet
When EPs meet with children they will try to establish what the child believes their own strengths and difficulties are.
Usually they will either do some assessment work with the child or talk with the child about ways to cope better with their difficulties. Assessment of a child by an EP will help identify the nature and extent of any SEN. Feedback may be given in a variety of ways: verbally, in writing or through further meetings. EPs can refer a child to other sources of help such as Child and Family Consultation Services, crucially they have a key role to play in the preparation of a Statement for a child with SEN. When the involvement of the EP comes to an end, parents or carers and schools should be given a written report detailing the EPs involvement.
Don’t be afraid of taking your child to an EP: a diagnosis makes it much easier for everyone – you, the school, and above all the child (‘thank goodness, I thought I was stupid’) – to deal with the problem. In case of doubt, and if you can afford the fee, get a second opinion.
Finding an Educational Psychologist
Since July 2009 the term ‘Educational Psychologist’ has been regulated by the Health Professions Council (HPC). HPC has a list of certain titles (e.g. ‘Educational Psychologist’, ‘Speech and Language Therapist’, ‘Occupational Therapist’ and many others) that may now only legally be used by people registered to the HPC. To remain registered practitioners need to not only have passed certain inital qualification hurdles but also must demonstrate, if requested, that they have done ongoing continued professional development. Parents can search the HPC database at www.hpcheck.org to check that a practitioner is HPC registered.