***Post Written by Erin Hanson, Government And Professional Relations Committee State Liaison (GPR) Previously SPAN***

I have attended multiple NASP annual conventions, this was my first experience with the NASP summer conference in the West.  I noticed some differences between the two and will outline them for those thinking of attending in the future as well as summarize the sessions I attended and what was offered.

The three day Summer conference had a smaller crowd than the masses typically seen at the annual convention and workshop options are chosen prior to the event.  The workshops resembled the breakout sessions of the convention in attendance. The offerings this year at the NASP summer conference ranged from Mindfulness practices in school, Ethics, Dyslexia assessment, Threat assessment and suicide prevention to creating an inclusive school in difficult political times,  mental health supports for LGBTQ+, depression, and specific social emotional learning programs/strategies. I personally appreciated the smaller size of the conference. One challenge which is not unique to this conference was attending all the workshops I wanted to based on the schedule of offering. However, I still found the workshops I attended to have quality presenters and adequate quantity of information provided in the time allowed.

I attended two out of the three possible days and attended sessions on Threat Assessment, Suicide Prevention and Postvention, Resilience Education Program Tier 2 intervention, and CBT to address depression and anxiety in school aged individuals.  Biggest take aways and resources gathered for me were:

Threat assessment (Melissa Reeves, PhD, NCSP): should be a team approach, student connectedness (in and out of school) is the biggest protective factor, and the process should not end with the assessment but include intervention and progress monitoring.  Current FBI and secret service reports, Making Prevention a Reality and Operation Guide for Preventing Targeted School Violence.  General guiding article, School Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management.

Suicide Prevention/Postvention (Benjamin Fernandez, MEd); suicide risk assessment is not one and done and like the threat assessment should include intervention and monitoring.  Non suicidal self injury may be considered a risk factor. Training for staff and students with refreshers is vital. Combining this training with other regularly scheduled meetings such as college or sports night may increase participation of parents.  Also consider Safe Messaging in prevention and response to a death by suicide. Free resource to download: After suicide: A toolkit for schools.

Resilience Education Program, Tier 2 (Katie Eklund, PhD, NCSP & Steven Kilgus, PhD): free; for children grades 4th-8th with internalizing behavioral concerns; 5 week small group combined with 10 week check in check out; curriculum structure is ‘say, show, do’; current article in School Mental Health shows positive effect size.  Curriculum materials available upon request.

Cognitive-Behavior Therapy to Address Depression and Anxiety in School-Age Children (Melissa Holland, PhD): recognizing stress physiological impacts in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, those main areas required for learning and memory.  Utilize bibliotherapy (pictures), puppets, whiteboards, role playing to help youth understand concepts. Four steps of CBT are 1. Develop awareness of emotional variability, 2. Detect automatic thoughts and identifying beliefs, 3. Evaluate automatic thoughts and beliefs, 4. Replace negative automatic thoughts and beliefs.  There were lots and lots of techniques and strategies provided however the biggest resources continually referenced were David Burns, The Feeling Good book, Strong Kids/Strong Start SEL programs, Merrell, K.A. (2008) Helping students overcome depression and anxiety: A practical guide.