When students find it difficult to learn in the regular classroom environment, teachers and parents/guardians can meet with a member of Psychological Services who can provide ideas and information to help the student become a more effective learner.
Staff in Psychological Services at the TDSB includes Psychologists and Psychological Associates who are registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario. Staff with the necessary academic qualifications who are working toward registration with the College also work under supervision as Psychoeducational Consultants. All staff have specialized training in psychology as it applies to educational settings.
Staff members in Psychological Services are assigned to specific elementary and secondary schools within the system (about 5-7 schools per staff person) and are responsible for providing a range of services to their schools. First and foremost, they are a resource to their school. They can act either as consultants to parents/guardians and teachers, or they can become directly involved with students through a formal referral process. Staff provides psychological consultation, psychological assessment and brief counselling.
There is a staff member from Psychological Services assigned to every school in the Toronto District School Board. If you have concerns or questions, they are available to discuss them with you. To reach the professional assigned to your child's school, contact your child's school and speak to the principal, or contact the Chief of Psychological Services for your area:
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What is a Psychological Consultation?
Members of Psychological Services are always available to parents/guardians, teachers and school principals, to provide information and ideas. As consultants, they can assist teachers in understanding why a student is having difficulty and make suggestions for changes to a student's program which would enable that student to work more effectively within the regular classroom. These changes to program can involve either instructional strategies and/or behavioural management techniques.
Staff also function as consultants in their role as a member of the school's "tracking" team. This team, the School Support Team, attempts to support students who are having difficulty in their classroom in a preventative way. That is, students are identified before their problems get out of hand and remedial strategies are put in place to help the student, before a pattern of failure becomes established.
Staff are also involved in the on-going monitoring of children who have been placed in Special Education. They are part of the team who track the student's progress, decide when changes are required and make recommendations about program changes or even demissions (when the student is ready to return to the regular classroom).
Sometimes, a student's progress continues to be poor, despite modifications made to program by the classroom teacher. Then the school may request a psychological assessment, in order to allow a staff member from Psychological Services to work directly with the student. This formal referral is required by law and is signed by the parents/guardians (or when appropriate, student), to ensure their agreement with the referral. Following the referral being received by Psychological Services staff, parents/guardians will be contacted to inform them about nature of the assessment and to obtain their informed consent for the assessment to take place.
What is a Psychological Assessment?
Psychological assessments are only carried out with the explicit permission of the parent/guardian (or when appropriate, student). The professional from Psychological Services will contact parents/guardians or student prior to the assessment to obtain their consent. During this contact, the professional will explain the nature of the services to be offered, the risks and benefits of the service, possible outcomes, confidentiality of the information obtained and the limits to that confidentiality. In this way, parents/guardians are providing truly informed consent for the assessment to proceed.
Typically, a psychological assessment involves the professional from Psychological Services gathering information about a student and observing that student as he/she functions in the school. Initially, the student may be observed in class or in other school contexts, to get an idea of the student's behaviour and to see how the classroom environment is impacting on the student. Interviews are also an important part of the information gathering process. These typically include interviews with the student, the teachers, the parents/guardians and the school principal. As part of the interviewing process, surveys or questionnaires may be given to parents and teachers. Standardized tests of intelligence, personality and achievement may also be conducted with the student. These tests examine relevant aspects of the student's skills: Academic, intellectual, perceptual, vocational, social/emotional etc. Because these tests are standardized on a wide range of children, they can provide information about how the student is performing compared to others his/her age in the general population. This, in turn can indicate patterns of individual strengths and needs.
Once all this information is gathered, it is analyzed to provide a detailed description of the student. More specifically, information about intellectual ability, learning strengths and needs and personality or learning style are combined to create a comprehensive profile of the student as a learner. Achievement results indicate whether academic progress is consistent with expectations, in terms of grade level and in terms of the student's ability profile.
Gathering this information and preparing a profile of the student is the first major step of the assessment process. The second major step involves sharing this information with parents/guardians, student and teachers. This information is used to modify or change the student's program and to develop teaching strategies to encourage academic success. Parents/guardians and teachers are an integral part of this process. They provide key information about the student and are involved in helping devise strategies that will compensate for learning weaknesses and build upon learning strengths. Together, parents/guardians, teachers and the staff of Psychological Services can work effectively to help students who are experiencing difficulty in the regular classroom setting, to become more successful learners.