BY: DREW COLEGROVE
This January of 2017, I have the great opportunity of shadowing Dr. Eileen Baker, the school psychologist of the Cape Henlopen School District. During my second week following Dr. Baker, the job has proven to be even more interesting than I thought. On Tuesday, we ventured over to Richard A. Shields Elementary in Lewes, DE, in order to test a lst grade student for Autism (he was administered the ADOS 2 test by Dr. Baker as I watched and participated in scoring the student along with her, as well). What I found most interesting about this test is that it involved a lot of playing with toys and included other creative ways to test the student for things such as social communication, imagination, sense of humor, body language, processing speeds, and emotional expression. What we found out from the test was amazing, the student did well in things such as having a normal attention span, communicative reciprocity, and imagination, but scored very low in other areas such as emotional expression and humor. The test results showed us that the student definitely does not have autism, but may have a social communication disorder considering his rather flat affect.
On the following day, I had the opportunity to watch another test be administered to a kindergartener, only this time it focused on IQ and word processing alone. I really enjoyed interacting with the young student because not only was she adorable, but she was also very cooperative, making it easier for me to observe the test itself. We found that while she had a relatively normal IQ, her processing speed was very low, unless she was prompted, suggesting that she may have an anxiety concerning her answers to questions, impeding her processing speed score.
In addition, another really important event took place this week that I was fortunate to be apart of. On Thursday, I was able to sit in on a big meeting with all of the special ed department. Teachers in the school were in attendance, along with the Superintendent of the district and the head of the special ed. program in Delaware, Jeffrey Conrad, who I met personally. This is a really important connection for my future career because If I decide to go to grad school for school psychology, this man will be a great contact for getting into the district and working with kids with learning disabilities. While talking with him, I was able to acquire information about job postings for this summer, where I will able to apply to be a para-educator during summer break this year.
My third week shadowing Eileen Baker has incredibly rewarding. On Tuesday, I was able to sit down with a social worker practicing within the Wellness Center at Cape Henlopen High School. I was excited to interview her about her job because I had an interest in the social work career before I decided to commit to School Psychology. What I learned from my sit down was unforgettable because it put into perspective what I think I can take and what I cannot. I realized that while the goals of a social worker match up with the goals I want to achieve in my own professional life, I don’t think I would be able to handle the stress/emotional exhaustion of the more severe cases.
Also, last Tuesday I was able to sit in on a big meeting with all the School Psychologists within the Cape Henlopen School District. This was a great experience for me on multiple levels. On one level, I was able to see the planning and communication that must take place between all of the school psychologists in order to establish goals and strategies for achieving those goals. For instance, in order for them to reach a educational standard for all children, despite their learning and social competency (goal), the psychologists discussed the idea of Inclusion, where all teachers/staff involved with a child’s day to day education would have a strong understanding of each child’s educational needs (strategy).
I also met a man named Kyle Venella who was just recently hired as a school psychologist in the district, being only a couple years older than myself, and I was able to talk to Kyle about his post-grad education. I received some really good advice from him and also acquired his contact information in case I had questions for him down the line. It was nice meeting someone just a little further ahead than myself in this career, and our meeting definitely made me more confident about taking this career path in my future.
Lastly, throughout the rest of the week I joined a lot of meetings discussing 504 plans (educational accommodations plan) with parents and teachers about specific students. I’m still not sure if this was completely acceptable but I did share some of my thoughts during these meetings and Eileen Baker/the parents seemed to really enjoy my ideas. I tried not to intrude too much on the conversation but I wanted to test my thoughts against those of the other teachers and honestly, I believe my thoughts were right on track with the other professionals in the room. I’m hoping I get more opportunities to include my input on things, but I know I should be careful not to intrude too much, and let the professionals do their jobs.
Drew Colegrove is double majoring in Psychology & English with a Concentration in Film and is expected to graduate Spring 2017.