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4 Questions Every Parent Should Ask Their Child’s Teacher

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It’s Parent-Teacher conference time for many local school districts, and making those brief meetings as productive as possible is on everybody’s mind. Most likely, your child’s teacher is prepared with a specific list of items to discuss and that’s a good thing! It’s a clear indication of a teacher who’s prepared a plan to guide your child’s instruction and who can speak specifically to where your child ‘is’ in terms of  her progress.

Does that mean parents should be passive during conferences? No – and most likely teachers would enjoy more of an exchange anyway. While it can often feel a bit rushed and there can be a lot of information to choose from to discuss during a conference, theses four areas may help you organize exactly what questions are important to ask during your child’s parent teacher conference this spring.

  1. Homework. While homework is not ‘class work’ or even necessarily an emphasis of school work, it does speak to ‘soft skills’ related to school functioning. For example, how well a student is able to keep organized, work independently, follow-through with assignments, and so on. Some questions to consider as a parent might be are: is my child turning in assignments on time? Is the work completed in an acceptable manner?
  2. Class participation. Get feedback from your child’s teacher regarding her observations of your child’s engagement in classroom. Do they appear prepared? Do they listen and follow directions? Cooperate? A student’s functioning regarding following the structure and routine of the class is important, and sometimes is hard for parents to pick up on if not asked directly.
  3. Social-emotional observations and/or feedback. Hopefully you have a good sense of your child’s relationship with his teacher. However, you may want to consider getting direct feedback. Asking for direct feedback regarding your child’s relationship(s) with the teacher, other adults, and/or other students may be helpful. Does your child get along well with other students? Manage frustration well? Social-emotional functioning in school is a significant factor regarding how well a student well perform.
  4. Academics. Not just grades and progress on standardized tests, but is your child able and comfortable asking for help? Does she preserver regardless of task difficulty? Is this a strength, weakness, something to work on?

 

At best, your relationship with your child’s teacher is positive and open communication has already been established. If not, through considering these types of questions, your child’s teacher is aware that you’ve given careful thought and consideration to aspects of learning that occur both in and out of the classroom. Of course, you’re asking these in the spirit of wanting to work together to build on your child’s strengths in order to improve on weaker areas. These kinds of questions – hopefully –  send a signal to your child’s teacher that you want their feedback and that you are ready and willing to help.

Need help having conversations with your child’s teachers?

Consider talking to your child’s school psychologist.

Amy Folger at WFT can be a resource!

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Getting an Accurate Diagnosis

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a topic that comes up frequently throughout my week; as a school psychologist in an elementary school, teachers often refer students for suspected problems with attention and concentration, hyperactivity, and impulse control difficulties. In my outpatient practice, I’m on the ‘other side’ of this equation, meeting with families often referred from school teams for suspected problems of this nature. Typically, these referrals seem appropriate and everyone is on the same page. Occasionally, the members are not. As in, ‘my child’s teacher told me my child has ADD and needed accommodations! Now what?!’ It gave me pause and consideration for this weeks blog.  Just who can and can’t diagnosis ADHD ? What might an assessment for ADHD include? Should school staff be bringing this subject up to parents to begin with? And, is it ADD or ADHD ?

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‘Help Your Child Thrive in School and Beyond’ – National School Psychology Awareness Week 2015

SCHOOL KIDS

This week happens to be National School Psychology Awareness Week. In an effort to promote our profession and  provide an understanding of what it is that we do – because it seems to be ever evolving, changing, and growing –  each year the national association designates a week in November to present a message to the public about school psychology.

Helping Students and Families Connect the Dots and Thrive in School and Beyond.

School psychologists are trained to support and help students build their strengths, skills and abilities and realize their goals. Specifically, we have the expertise in mental health, learning, and behavior to help children  and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. We help students build upon their strengths, skills, interests, and abilities to ‘connect the dots’ and thrive. This includes helping them identify and plan ways to accomplish short and long term goals, building better relationships, and finding ways to keep going even when things get tough.

As many in our community may wrestle with high emotion and confusing thoughts and opinions related to incredibly important matters of faith, family, belief, and hope for the future, being accepting and loving towards everyone, even those that are very different from us, while challenging, may be more important than ever. Kids in school, especially as they get older, become notoriously peer focused! Who is getting the A? Who has the coolest phone? Who does the teacher call on the most? Who got asked to the dance? Etc. Etc. Supporting our kids to be true to themselves, yet accepting of others can be such a difficult task.

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Testing Students for a Learning Disability

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Having been in school about 2 and 1/2 months, my mailbox at school is getting busier with referrals.  As the school psychologist in an elementary building, there’s been ample time for teachers to identify concerning students, try individualized interventions, and monitor their progress. For some of those students who are still struggling, it’s time for including the school psychologist for some discussion with the parents: should we be considering testing?

How and when should parents and teachers begin to consider a child for testing?

What should you expect if you decide to move forward with testing?

As my well trained teachers know,  lack of sufficient growth to grade level instruction can be an early indication, along with insufficient rate of growth despite individualized intervention. Because of changes in the law that governs special education and testing, most school districts require some period of intensive, individualized interventions either prior to testing  or as part of the evaluation. This is called ‘response to intervention’ or R.T.I.  Throughout this time period, the expectation is that the student’s response to the intervention  (progress) is monitored and documented. This is an important concept to keep in mind and to consider prior to initiating the testing process or, at the very least, to understand once testing is underway.

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Help With Homework? Re-frame Your Approach This Year

SCHOOL KIDS

The school year is now underway, and for most of us, that can only mean one thing. It’s just a matter of days before ‘it’ begins, ‘mom, where is my science book? I know it was in my book bag and now it’s gone!’ or ‘dad, YOU SAID you would help me with my English!’ Homework season has begun.

When did homework become so intense, so stressful? Does it have to be this way? Here are just a few ideas to re-frame the homework experience to make it easier on you and help you remember why we do it at all.

Pro or con, the homework debate has been going on for as long as most of us can remember. How much is enough? Is it worth it? Should you monitor your child? Most research leans towards yes, generally speaking, though not always in the way we might think. Overall, a good rule of thumb is approximately 10 minutes per grade, so a first grader completes about 10 minutes, and so on.

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Student Resiliency: 5 Skills Your Child Needs To Suceed This Year

SCHOOL KID ANXIETY

Over and over the term ‘resiliency’ is being used in conversations between teachers, parents, and in preparation for the upcoming school year.  Most of us use the term casually; of course, students who are ‘resilient’ will do better at school – both academically and socially – but what does resiliency really mean?  Can parents help develop these skills? Can resiliency ‘be taught?’ In one psychological study conducted by Brock (2002d), student resiliency was determined to include specific internal behavioral skills or traits and that yes, these traits could be improved or fostered. Using that study as a framework, positive student resiliency behaviors/skills include:

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KIDS SOCIAL SKILLS GROUP BEGINS TOMORROW (July 15th)!

 

KIDS GROUP FLYER SLC - SUMMER 2015This weekly group is designed to help school-aged children navigate the challenges of social situations and understand what it means to be a friend. Focusing on understanding their role and impact on those in their world.

  • Keep and make friends
  • Increase self-esteem
  • Discover skills for coping with anxiety
  • Strengthen social skills

Next Group begins: Wednesday, July 15th (5:00 – 6:00 PM)

Price$50 per week/ per child

Ages: 8-12

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Social Skills: Let’s Teach Them !

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As this school year wraps up, most students and parents will eagerly, or  for some anxiously, wait for report cards. Progress in reading, math, writing, physical education and perhaps, depending on your district or structure of your school, aspects of learning such as ‘motivation’ or ‘character’ will be indicated somewhere on the document. However, do you know how your child is functioning regarding social skills? Does it really matter?

Research in education today signals a resounding yes. In generations past, children acquired these skills almost exclusively at home and within their families. With increasing negative societal influences and various sources of stress bombarding so many of us, it’s hard for parents to go it alone. Schools can often be an important partner with parents to provide positive social skills development. Yet, what can you do if your child doesn’t seem to be interacting socially in age appropriate ways?

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This Week at WFT 2/9/15

ThisweekatWFT

KIDS Social Skills Group

Wednesday, February 11th, 5:00 – 6:00 pm

Facilitator:  Amy Folger, CMHC

Social Skills Group for Children (Ages 9-11)

-Keep & make friends

-Increase self-esteem

-Discover skills for coping with anxiety

-Strengthen social skills

Call Brittany at 801-944-4555 to register!

 

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A Fresh Outlook in The New Year

Wasatch Family TherapyTo be honest, I’ve long abandoned the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. Being born with a brain that’s wired for a short attention span and lacking in organizational skills, I am challenged by simple tasks which I resolve to complete on a daily basis: being sure I arrive at appointments on time, having gas in my car, and did I remember to bring my iPad? Additionally, my brain is now deficit in attention and almost 50.   The determination, willpower and stamina involved (or so I would imagine)  in ‘sticking to’ resolutions made on January 1 come January 10th, or 20th or (wow! is it possible!) into February is mind boggling to me. Like space traveling; I know incredible human beings make it happen all the time; how they do so is a true wonderment to me.

For myself, and for some of the rest of us, I would like to propose a change in focus this year, and one that I have come to find very useful. Resolve to focus more on the present and live each day to the fullest.  I could resolve , on January 5th, to exercise for 40 minutes every morning; but how can I know how I’ll be feeling on the morning of January 6th or January 12th? Resolve to live each day in the moment.  Attempting to pre-determine your action/behavior on some future date can be limiting and is often a set-up for failure. I have come to learn that I don’t have to make grand statements or decisions about the future; I choose to focus on the present and live life as it occurring. Taking action based on the here and now, in the present, is empowering. It takes practice for sure and can be scary to think about, but that’s the beauty inherent in the approach. You don’t have to think about it!

Next, consider some of the values that are important to you and then ask yourself,  if someone were to spy on me for a few days, would they be able to identify them? For example, some potential areas might be: having a job and money; loving and being loved; making my own decisions; self-respect; freedom; having no legal problems; good health; religion & spirituality; family; good friends. Let’s say my top two are ‘good health’ and ‘family.’ The spy follows me for 3 days. What he observes is: I eat junk food, I lay on my couch, my mom calls me repeatedly and I refuse to pick up the phone. In this  case, clearly, while I am identifying good health and family as the two most important values in my life, my behavior clearly is NOT in line with what is most important to me.

So, why suggest this exercise?

When we act in ways that are contrary to our core beliefs or values, our emotional systems will often act up in one way or another.  We may begin to feel like something is ‘just not right’  though we’re not exactly sure why or what’s wrong.  At times. we lose sight of the things we truly value. Other demands, pressures, stress, or who knows what pulls us to act in ways contrary from the things that are truly important to us.  This simple exercise is a great little tool to use as a reminder. Use it as a self-check in;  am I using my time in ways that align with things that are truly important to me? If not, adjust accordingly.

 

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