The following is an idealised day which has omitted the boring and mundane stuff.
My day might start with a meeting with my intern who is studying at Victoria University to become a registered psychologist. We might discuss his case work and the requirements of his university course. Once he’s headed off for a full day of work, I might call some parents to set up appointments. At that time, I clarify why they might have asked for the support of an educational psychologist. Usually during this phone call we make the outline of a plan for my support. We agree about what I will focus on and what work I will carry out. Sometimes as we work through the assessments we need to make changes so I try to remain flexible and will always be in touch to discuss any additional work that may need to be done. Immediately after this first phone call I will send out an appointment confirmation and information gathering sheets for both parents and teachers. These help me to get a better understanding of the situation.
If I’m seeing students I will then head off to my office at wonderful Auckland Normal Intermediate. Parents and children come to the office where we have a brief chat about what’s going on and we talk about what the assessment will be like for them. After about 15 minutes of chatting parents leave us to get to work. Often I might start with a Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (Fifth edition, Australian and New Zealand). This test involves the child or young person working through a number of different activities which help me develop a thorough understanding of their thinking abilities. The activities while related to learning are very different from what is done in school. Typically students enjoy this assessment and have fun with the activities. When this is done, we both usually need a break for a drink and something to eat. Since we are at a school we usually go outside for a bit of fresh air and a play on some of the equipment for the student, if they wish. After our break we head back to look at what has been learned at school. I usually use the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (Third edition, Australian and New Zealand). This test helps me to understand what a student has learned. I often add other tests such as a handwriting test or a reading test, I make my selection based on what the student, parents and teachers have told me and what I am observing as I’m working with the student. If there are concerns about behaviour I might ask the student, teachers and parents to complete a standardised assessment to help me understand more about their behaviour. I might also pop in to your child’s school to observe or watch what is happening at school. After all this assessment has finished everyone will be ready for a break. Parents come to pick their child up and I’ll give you a brief rundown on how things have gone and might have a couple of follow up questions. I usually go back to my office, organise my findings and set up my paperwork for writing the report. By the time I’ve done this I’m usually ready for the end of my day so head home for the mundane stuff.
Look out for part 2 next week.
Robyn Stead, Child Psychologist and Educator, lives and works in central Auckland.