by Julie T. Steck, Ph.D., HSPP
Most days, I start and end my work within the four walls of my office at 9106 North Meridian Street in Indianapolis. I am comfortable there and love working with children and adolescents and their families. I listen to parents’ concerns about their children’s behavioral or learning difficulties. We explore the causes and solutions of those problems. Often these concerns focus on learning and behavioral issues within the school setting. While I can talk on the phone or send an email to a teacher or administrator, there is no substitute for actually getting out of the office and going to the student’s school.
I started my career working with children as a special education classroom teacher in a public school in 1974. I was a teacher of the deaf in a public school in Dallas. I still recall my teaching days as some of the most exciting and supportive of my careers. Schools have a culture of their own. There is a unique set of terminology and acronyms common to education. Teachers are typically open, caring and verbal individuals. I am comfortable in and am exhilarated by being in schools.
Each year I spend 10-20% of my time talking with schools through phone conferences, attending Case Conferences or observing and providing recommendations for students. Years ago, our first school psychologist at CRG, Diane Widdifield, said “that is where the rubber meets the road.” I think she was right. When parents, school personnel and mental health professionals come together, much can be accomplished. We can better understand the school environment, the expectations of students, and the true concerns of school personnel. Parents have the opportunity to be heard and their concerns clarified through dialogue across settings. And, we hope, our involvement helps school personnel have a better understanding of the learning and mental health needs of the students. Most importantly, we should all leave the interaction with a better understanding of the perspectives of other parties.
What is critical to these opportunities for cross-fertilization is the willingness to be open, vulnerable and to share and receive knowledge. When this happens, the student at the focus of the dialogue benefits but so do other students.