How Has Child Psychology Advanced Over The Years?
With the enactment of PL 101-476, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990, and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, child psychology has been forced to advance over the years. Psychologists play a major role in the identification of special needs children, in the creation of the Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs), and in the implementation of the plans. Child psychology has also advanced in regards to treating students with special needs and working with their families.
Districts are required to have a pre-referral team. If a student is suspected of having a disability, the pre-referral team does an informal evaluation. The team meets to discuss concerns, come up with strategies and devise a plan. The school psychologist is a member of the pre-referral team and typically heads up the informal evaluation. Based on whether or not the plan adequately addresses the needs of the child, a referral can then be made to the Committee on Special Education (CSE).
As part of the CSE team, the school psychologist conducts a thorough evaluation, which includes measuring cognitive, social, emotional and physical levels. Observations are made in various settings and information is obtained from those directly involved with the child, including the child's parent. Once the evaluation is complete, the psychologist is usually the key person to explain the results to the parents and to the CSE. For new referrals, this information is usually reviewed with the parents prior to the CSE meeting, to allow parents an opportunity to ask questions. Based on the results, the psychologist will either recommend that the child be identified as a student with special needs or recommend that he not be classified. If the recommendation is to identify the student, the psychologist will recommend one of the recognized classifications.
As the CSE develops the IEP, the psychologist will suggest goals to address emotional, social, or behavioral needs. Although the psychologist might not be directly involved with implementing the goals, he/she will monitor the student's progress in regards to these areas. At least every three years, the psychologist will conduct another thorough evaluation for the triennial.
If there is a discipline issue with a student with special needs and the student needs to be removed from his current placement, a manifestation determination needs to be held if the removal is for more than ten days. The psychologist plays a crucial role in determining whether or not there is a connection between the child's disability and the inappropriate behavior.
Private psychologists and psychiatrists need to stay abreast to special education regulations as well. A parent has the right to request an outside evaluation. The results of the evaluation are presented at a CSE meeting and recommendations contained in the report are up for discussion and consideration. The recommendations need to be in alignment with the state regulations. For example, a psychiatrist shouldn't recommend "test read" for a child who reads at grade level, but is ADHD. When these types of recommendations are made, it's confusing to the parent and can possibly cause negative feelings if the CSE says no to a recommendation.
With the availability of new medications and the longevity studies on certain prescriptions, the psychiatrist needs to stay current with what is effective for certain disabilities and what isn't working. He/she also needs to know trends, alerts and misconceptions as related to special education. Parents are seeking answers and will use the information given to them when advocating for their children.