***Post Written by Sarah Perkins, Website Administrator, Membership Chair, and President Elect for WSPA***
In honor of School Psychology Awareness Week, I was planning on writing a post with resources for increasing awareness of and engagement with school psychology. But it seems a bit like reinventing the wheel when the National Association of School Psychology does such a nice job of providing materials.
So instead, I thought I would share my thoughts on why people are not more aware of school psychology.
I believe a major factor is that we are housed in special education and many people are not really aware of special education beyond its existence, if that. This is just the nature of programs designed for particular subsets of the population. Now, of course, there is some debate as to whether school psychologists should be included in special education. I happen to like my place but I can see an argument for making us more general, depending on the day-to-day work of the individual school psychologist.
Another reason we are often overlooked is that mental health professionals in general are poorly understood. Very few people know the difference between a social worker, counselor, psychologist and psychiatrist. I do believe that this slowly changing as mental health issues become more acceptable to discuss in public, which can only help our profession as well.
Finally, I believe the biggest difficulty in having our professions understood by our communities or even our school colleagues, is the huge variance in how we all practice. I know that in my district practically the only commonality is assessment. There is one school psych who focuses on counseling and crisis intervention while another one loves progress monitoring and academic interventions. Some of my colleagues embrace the district mandate to be the leader of the special education team while some dislike it.
This variety is the strength of our profession and its weakness. As professionals we have the amazing opportunity of creating roles that suit our strengths and interests and cater to the unique needs of our schools and communities. However, this means that it very difficult for anyone who does not directly interact with us to be clear on what it is we actually do and how we add value to our schools. I am not sure if this is a problem to solve or just one more quirky characteristic of school psychology to embrace.