Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Case Managing 504 Plans

One of the first memories I have from my first days of a School Psych was searching for  504 plans.  You see, my school didn't have an electronic list anywhere, and the former psych left no indication of a list of students with 504's.  As case manager of 504 plans in my building, this posed a significant problem.   So, I did what any dedicated newbie would:  I searched the file drawers for the correct folders, and went from there.

Because of this, I was determined to be set up for my second year in the easiest way possible, so, part of my end of year routine involves prepping all my plans for the next year.

I created a cover sheet my first year that I have been using ever since.  I usually copy it in a bright color so that it's easy for teachers to locate, and clip it to a copy of the plan.  I've seen teachers pull it out at meetings, so I assume it's working pretty well.  I also make a copy of every students accommodation pages for the specials teachers.  At the beginning Of the year, I am good to go!


Here is the Cover Sheet I use:  (download it from google docs here)



I also send a letter out to all parents of my 504's at the beginning of the year, using this template:


And here is the letter I send to special area teachers, who get copies of multiple plans:







As I do with all meetings, I schedule all meetings at the beginning of the year, and mark all dates off on  my SPED organization chart.  I get the above going in June, so it's one less thing to do at the start of the year.  What do you all use to help case manage?

Friday, May 6, 2016

School Psychologist: Getting started with Assessments

Oh Spring.  What a dichotomy for School Psychologists.  The weather is warm, you can break out bright colors and iced coffee, but at the same time, you are scrambling, trying to beat the federal timeline on the most popular time of the year for special education referrals.  While that  will probably never change, I have developed a system over the years, for organizing and keeping track of my evaluations.



I've finally developed a system that is pretty smooth, and allows me to balance multiple evals with once without going nuts.  Here is my system:

1.  Create a cover sheet for your folder you'll keep everything in.  This is what I use, and it's been super efficient for me for the past 3 years.  It has everything I need on it, including:

  • Assessments I am doing
  • PPT dates, due dates
  • A way of tracking what assessments & observations I've done, and when I send them out/return them.

I staple that sheet to the front of your folder, write the student's name and due date on the tab, and staple a copy of the consent for testing form to the back inside, just in case there are any questions.

2.  The same day I create this, I send out a copy of all forms I need other people to fill out (developmental history, rating scales, etc.), and write those down on my form.  Another way I have made this really easy is having pre-written letters that I can quickly fill in.  Then, I stick those in an envelope and send them home/put them in teachers mailboxes.

  
One more tip:  Write "To:" and "From:" on the outside of your envelope.  Chances are, the parents will just cross out those words and switch them, and the chances of your envelope going back to the classroom teacher or random other person, are slim.



  3.  Also the same day, I get a copy of the protocols I need and put them in the students folder.  This saves last minute scrambling of me using the last protocol!





4.  Once things come in, or I finish them, I write those dates down on the cover sheet.

5.  If you don't already, as I mentioned in this post, you NEED a report template.  It will make your life  6 million times easier.  For mine, I try to go through and update things once a year to add any new assessments I have learned.

What's your secret to Spring eval season success?

Here are my go-to forms:

Testing planning form on TpT (Cover sheet)
Observation form on TpT
A student interview (I use this as an informal ice breaker for students)
A template letter for parent rating scales
A template letter for teacher rating scales



Friday, February 5, 2016

5 More Pinterest Ideas

A while ago I shared some pins I love.  As much as I love Pinterest, sometimes I get overwhelmed at the ideas, and, more often than not, I pin something and then forget about it.  So here are 5 pins that I have actually used, and love!


I love reading books in groups, but I also love then someone else reads them!  This website has an animated version of Howard Wigglebottom books.


I need to write a post on these hearts (which are a great activity for following directions!).  They are perfect for Random Acts of Kindness or Valentines Day!


Let's face it-it's hard for kids to understand what we do.  I get called a social worker more than a psychologist. I love this counselor's idea and post about explaining her job to kiddos, and I use some of these when I go and talk to classrooms about my role.

I love a good check-in.  I pull this one out often as an alternative to my regular one because of the great t visuals.


 Let's face it:  Legos make anything more fun.  I have used this with a few different groups, and it's great for a variety of ages!

What are you pinning lately?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Random Acts of Kindness 2016

Last year, my favorite school wide activity was RAK week-except we did it for a month, because collecting hundreds of hearts was a little more than a week's worth of work.  Essentially , we asked       all students and staff to complete any acts of kindness that they could think of (we also gave suggestions), and write them down on red hearts we distributed.


This is such an easy project for a class or school,  and I just updated mine for this year.  Use my FREE template here!



Thursday, January 28, 2016

Think Sheets

One of the reasons we started up a large school climate program at our school was to share some tools that teachers could use with their students' behavior.  Think sheets, in my opinion, are a fabulous tool to use when used appropriately.  Although kids don't love filling them out and bringing them home for their parents to review and sign (a necessity), they really are a good tool for turning problematic student behavior into a lesson:

What is a better choice to make next time?

That's really what we want them to learn, right?  That when a similar incident happens next time, they make a different choice, a better choice.


I designed my first think sheet 2 years ago in a pinch when I need something to use for a Kindergartener.  They couldn't write sentences, and I didn't want to have them dictate.  So, I figured drawing out the incident (and a better choice) next time would be a good idea.  I've added and changed it along the way, but this version is the most popular with teachers at my school, even in the older grades.

You can download this one page Think Sheet HERE  from google drive for FREE, or this and another 2 versions on my TPT store for a bargain.  Let me know how these work out for you and your students!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Shooting Stars: My 10 week social skills SPORTS group!

We all have our standard counseling groups-one for anxiety, a lunch bunch for friendship, a social thinking review.  This group, however is unique, and always a lot of fun to do.

I don't run this group every year, and it's really based on the student need.  It's a great way to get those kids who wouldn't normally buy into social groups, into one, because it revolves around sports. I actually have students begging to make  up group and come even after it's finished.  :)

I put together my newest TPT store packet to share, but also as a reference for myself.  Sometimes, it's nice not to have to think too much, and just pull out a piece of paper to tell you what to do, right?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

In the Beginning: A School Psych Starter Kit

A while back I shared my Advice for the New School Psychologist.  Getting and starting your first job as a "real" school psych is  as exciting as it is nerve-wracking.  You are  so ready to take on the world, but at the same time, feel like you have no idea what you are getting yourself into.  Right?



You are most likely taking over the job of someone else who left your district.  This can mean a few things:  you are taking the place of someone who left behind some district-purchased goodies that are a-okay, or you are inheriting  20 years of files and papers.



I don't believe it's necessary or wise to go crazy buying everything off amazon before you start and here's why:  you won't really know what you'll need, until you get to know your job and your kiddos. Often, my population varies year to year (or every few years), and my needs change.  So, I came up with a list of things that would be helpful to start out with, at the beginning.

1.  A report template:  I mentioned this in my first post, but I cannot stress how helpful it will be to put something together before you need to.  Because in all likelihood, but the time you need to be writing that report,  you will already have 5,000 other things on your plate as well. So start it now, while you have time.

2.  Fun games for kids:  You don't need much to start with, and what you need probably depends on the kids  you work with.  I found that, my first year, even though I had every game in  the world, all my kids wanted to play with was the old psych's legos and foam blocks.  That said, a game of Uno  and sorry will suffice at the  beginning.  And ask around-coworkers, family and friends often have used board games their own children have outgrown!

3.  A planner:  You will be a popular person for meeting invitations.  In order to remember to attend these, and to know when you are double (and triple!) booked, you will need some place to write these down.  So paper, or electronic, be prepared on your first day.          


4.  Professional clothing:  This might vary according to the school and district you work with.  My first year, I made it a point to look as professional as possible, even if I didn't feel like it all the time.   To this day, I feel better in tough meetings, when I'm rocking a blazer and my glasses. Am I crazy?  Maybe it's just me.  This is especially important if you are young out of grad school, and work in a high school setting.  A few months into my career, I asked for the key to the faculty bathroom at our high school, only to be told "Sorry, that's for staff only, hon!"

5.  A comfy place for students to relax:  When I moved into my office, it was outfitted with a leather Freudian -style couch.  Appropriate, for a psychologist, I suppose, but I couldn't imagine a Kindergartener coming in and opening up about their life while sitting on red leather.  I quickly donated it to another part of the school, and replaced it with a "calming spot", which I have had ever since.  A tiny rug, and some comfy pillows or a chair is all it takes.  Kids love it.  And there are some days, I just want to close my door and take a break in the calming spot myself.    

6.  Snacks:  You probably know this from being in an internship, but there are days where you will forget to eat lunch.  Or, you will think that you have an hour for lunch, and you end up spending that on the playground trying to get a student in for lunch.  If you get HANGRY like me, (or if you just need energy to function), don't forget your snacks.  Snack drawer, people.  It's essential.

7.  A bag to bring it all home:  If this is your first job, splurge and get yourself a nice bag to lug back and forth to your office(s) with you.  I know, I know, "don't bring work home", but it happens.  When you are the last person in the building and you aren't even halfway through your report, and you're falling asleep, it's better to take a break and bring it home.  And you will need a bag to tote that laptop, and iPad, and 10 folders.

8.  Some resources for counseling, but bring what you have, or what you know:  Like I mentioned above, please don't feel like you have to go crazy over materials.  Over the years, the resources I have used the most are the ones that I have borrowed from other people, and then bought myself.  Or, I will try out some freebies online, and then see if the curriculum works for me.  So, my advice would be, use what you have learned in school.  If you really like Social Thinking, buy a book.  But don't go nuts for things you might not use.

Your first year as a School Psych is going to be just as exciting as it is overwhelming and nerve-wracking.  And before you know it, you'll be an expert 2nd year professional!

What else did you have that helped in your first year?