12 Transcript

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[00:00:00] Dr. Sharp: Hey everybody, this is Dr. Jeremy Sharp. Welcome to the Testing Psychologist podcast episode 12.

Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of The Testing Psychologist podcast. This is Dr. Jeremy Sharp. Today, I am talking with Amy Fortney Parks. I’m really excited for our conversation today. Amy and I originally connected in the practice of the practice Facebook group, the online community there.

I was really taken by Amy’s enthusiasm and her energy for marketing and some of the things that she’s put together for her practice. She actually reached out to me to talk through some aspects of testing and integrating with schools and recommendations and things like that. So [00:01:00] I’m excited to have this conversation with her today.

Let me do the official introduction for you, Amy, and then we will jump into our conversation. Okay?

Amy: Sounds great.

Dr. Sharp: Great. Amy Fortney parks describes herself as a life-long educator, a passionate psychologist, and often stressed-out, but mostly happy mom of four. She is the Executive Director of Wise Mind Solutions, LLC, a Northern Virginia-based practice focused on children, teens, and families. Amy is also the owner of The Wise Family, a comprehensive brand for kids and parents designed to inspire, educate and energize families.

Amy brings with her over 25 years of education and experience working with children, adolescents, and families as both an educator and psychologist. Her focuses include individual counseling for kids, tweens, and teens, parents and educational consulting. She is a passionate “BRAIN-trainer” and strives to help everyone she works with understand how their own unique brain works. I [00:02:00] like that.

Amy holds a Master’s degree in Psychological Services and is just about to wrap up her dissertation and get her Doctorate in Educational Psychology. Congratulations on that, by the way.

Amy: Yay.

Dr. Sharp: That’s a big yay. We’ll talk as we go along about how to get in touch with you and learn more about your services and about you here toward the end of the show but for now, welcome Amy to The Testing Psychologist podcast.

Amy: Thank you so much. I appreciate it, Jeremy. I didn’t realize how many times the word passion is in my bio. I’ll have to modify that a little bit.

Dr. Sharp: That just says that you are very passionate.

Amy: Obviously, maybe a little overly passionate.

Dr. Sharp: That’s fair. We’ll sort through that. We’ll see. Well, how are things in Northern Virginia today?

Amy: Everything’s fine. We’re back to school. A little bit of snow on the ground, but not much. It’s a sunny day. Everything’s going well. I think that kids are [00:03:00] getting ready for the start of the spring break season, that’s an exciting time for families, but in our state, we also have some testing coming up around that time, so some anxiety starts to happen pretty soon here, so we’ll have an uptick in some of our work.

Dr. Sharp: Absolutely. I know that pattern well, gosh, standardized testing has just gotten so ubiquitous. For a lot of my kids anyway, that’s a pretty rough time.

Amy: Yeah. We see that too. So everything’s going great. We’re busy and we love working with families. I binge listened to your podcast on a trip and I was really excited to connect with you and agreed with everything you said and was so excited to hear your journey. And I thought, I have an area that might be something that would be helpful for your listeners. So [00:04:00] that’s why I reached out and said, hey, you want to talk about recommendations and some stuff that involves schools. And you were like, yeah, great. Sounds awesome. So I was excited to connect.

Dr. Sharp: Yeah, absolutely. As listeners know, the last episode that I did was on doing a school observation and some aspects to consider, so this is a great little two-part series and maybe more than that, who knows but right now we’ve got two ongoing episodes on integrating with schools and how to work with schools and integrate testing with the public education system. So super excited to talk with you today.

Amy: I’m not sure you’re going to even get away from, you’re going to probably do a lot of episodes on school because, of course, there are lots of opportunities to do testing for adults but not nearly the volume or the need as young people. And then they’re going to always be in school or homeschooled or getting educated in some way, so we always have to figure out [00:05:00] that partnership.

Dr. Sharp: Oh, absolutely. Well let’s jump into it. It sounds like you’ve had a long career and a lot of experience in schools and as a mom and as a clinician, so can you just tell me a little about your life and what your work has looked like, and how you got where you are?

Amy: Yeah, when you look at those numbers, you’re like, shoot, I didn’t realize I was that old, that’s a long time, but it does add up fast. I started as a teacher. So I graduated, my undergraduate was in psychology. Scarily, I had a triple major. I was English, Education, and Psychology.

I started in teaching because I actually didn’t know that schools had school counselors. I went from kindergarten to 12th grade to an all-girls Episcopal school in Virginia. I didn’t know there was such a thing as school counselors.

So when I graduated, I went right into teaching and [00:06:00] I found that I was spending an inordinate amount of time talking to families about their family situations versus their child’s English grades. A girlfriend of mine said, well, why don’t you look into becoming a school counselor? I was like, oh, I didn’t even know that was a job.

And so I went back and got my master’s degree in a now-defunct program, but the program was actually psychological services. It’s a dual master’s degree in school psychology and school counseling. So I had all the same training for school psychology as masters plus then the additional counseling and clinical work.

And so after that, I began to do a lot of work in alternative education because in alternative education, there were many times when somebody that could look at a child through various lenses was really valuable. And so I did a lot of work with families and kids and [00:07:00] teens who were having difficulty in the traditional classroom and trying to figure out what was going on with them.

Oftentimes, what we see is children that are having difficult time in a traditional classroom have either a confidence or a competence issue. And so my job was to tease those things out and figure out what was going on, and quite often, many of our kids had both confidence and competence as concerns. So I was able to help them and work with them.

So I did that. And during the time I was doing that, I also had some kids along the way. So my oldest one is actually 24 and my youngest is 17. So I have two in college, one who has graduated and has a real job, which I think is an exciting thing to mention.

Dr. Sharp: Wow, congratulations.

Amy: It’s very exciting. And then I have one that’s a tutor in high school. So had some kids, did some of that. At some point in time, I realized that one of the hardest things for [00:08:00] me about education is that oftentimes schools and teachers try so hard, no one goes into education for the paycheck, they go into it because they care about kids. However, oftentimes I was witness to what we would know is best practice for kids but something we couldn’t execute on a system level.

That was hard for me because I would know something would work or something would help but we couldn’t really do it, for whatever reason, there was some restriction. At some point, I decided, hey, I want to do more of this on my own than be in the school setting. I want to have more freedom to be able to pick my instruments. I want to have more freedom to be able to try different modalities, so I started a private practice and worked part-time in the school system for a while and then went to full-time private practice probably about five years ago now.

[00:09:00] Dr. Sharp: It sounds like you’ve seen things from both sides and run the gamut with perspective in terms of what is helpful for kids and how to work with kids.

Amy: Yeah, I think so. I talk and we talked a little bit about this before, but I always talk to families about what I consider to be the trifecta, which is the family, the school and then the outside support system, whatever that means. Maybe it might be occupational therapist, it might be speech and language, it might be psychologists, it might be nutritionist, it might be the pastor, who knows? I think that that trifecta is so important.

I was thinking this morning about, this is a little off topic but still on topic, I was thinking about the March Madness and I was thinking about the big rabid fans around these teams, these people that are so rabid about these different basketball teams and stuff. And I thought, you know what, that’s how I feel about kids. I’m a [00:10:00] rabid fan of kids and so I was just thinking about how it feels to just be a big fan.

I tell kids all the time and teens and families that I’m totally team Jeremy. That’s my deal and families are really excited to hear that.

DR. Sharp: Oh, I’m sure. Well, I know at least with a lot of the families that I work with for whatever reason, they have come to a place of feeling like they may maybe not have an advocate or don’t have folks on their side who have their kids best interest at heart. And so I would guess that that is really valuable for the families that you work with just to feel that from you, that energy.

Amy: And even to know that even when it doesn’t feel like people have their kids best interest at heart, there’s a way to reorient the focus. For example, [00:11:00] when I’m working with families, I always make sure that there’s a picture of the kid on the table. Oftentimes in our system, the teenager is coming to IEP meetings, but if it’s a younger kid, I always make sure I have a picture of the child because we’re talking about a human being.

Dr. Sharp: That’s great.

Amy: I know it’s really important to honor that and honor the family and to be sure that they have all their questions answered. Maybe they don’t get all the right answers or all the answers they want right away, but we still have their kids best interest at heart.

Dr. Sharp: Yeah, even something small like that, that’s a cool idea. You’re right, I would imagine we both been in a number of IEP meetings where things spin out a little bit and it gets easy to lose the fact that this is a real kid and we’re talking about their life and this is really important stuff.

[00:12:00] Amy: I think that we can have that perspective even if we don’t have kids. I know plenty of clinicians that don’t have children who are absolutely the best and phenomenal at what they do. I will say that my whole approach changed when one of my sons was in the 5th grade and he did poorly on the writing SOL,

those standard of learning tests that we have in the state of Virginia and they have all over the country at different varying degrees.

He had not done well. He had failed it. They called me into the school but no one ever told me why they were having the meeting. I’m working full-time in a local school system. I know exactly what it is that schools do and how they’re supposed to do things, and yet they called me into this meeting and there is this big table full of all these people and I’m like, what the heck? Why are all you guys here? You just said you wanted to chat with me or something.

It turned out [00:13:00] that they were saying, well, we’re concerned because your son didn’t pass the writing SOL and he has to go on to middle school and blah, blah. I’m like, you guys didn’t even tell me why you were having this meeting. I actually know you’re supposed to. Imagine if I didn’t know that, imagine how it must feel.

It became a pretty big, I had to come to Jesus with them about it because I’m like, this is not cool. You can’t just do that. This is me, I’m okay, but you can’t do this on a regular basis. And that was a real awakening for me to make sure that families really were so clear as to what our goal was, where we were going, how we were going to get there and how we were going to measure that progress.

Dr. Sharp: I think that’s so important and that’s validating maybe it’s the right word, that it’s happening elsewhere too. I feel like so many parents I work with have had that ambush experience in a meeting like that [00:14:00] or are clueless about the process. I feel like it is on the school and on us as private practitioners to a degree to help prepare parents for that and give them an idea of how to navigate that process.

Amy: Yeah, I think that you can’t go wrong with overeducating. I really don’t think you can, because this is not a parent’s frame of reference necessarily. They come in with their own specialties and they look at us to be able to use our expertise. It’s important for me to establish that kind of trust, but also to establish that ability to say, hey, look, here’s the law, here’s what it looks like, here’s what you can do, here’s what we can do.

I don’t think it needs to be contentious. It becomes contentious when people aren’t feeling they can trust the situation.

Dr. Sharp: I totally agree.

Amy: I guess there’s a lot of reasons for that.

Dr. Sharp: Sure. [00:15:00] Maybe that’s a nice segue into, what thoughts do you have on how a clinician maybe in my place or the psychologist who’s doing the testing, how would you prepare parents for navigating the special education process or asking for 504 or IEPs, what feels important for them to know coming off an evaluation in private practice?

Amy: Of course, lots of these things could be changing in the coming months and potentially years, but let’s just hope that things stay stable. Just to clarify for your listeners, there are basically two different and I’m taking it slow so I don’t make a mistake and speak about something that I’m not sure about but two different types of supports that schools can provide and this is public school systems.

There are independent school supports that are oftentimes maybe available in specialized schools that [00:16:00] are available for kids with different needs but at the public school level, there’s what’s called a 504 plan and then there’s what’s called an IEP, an individualized education plan. Both of those serve the purpose of supporting kids in the classroom, but they’re very different in the teeth behind them or what they can do for kids and how they’re executed.

So a 504 plan is a general education function, meaning it’s generally supported and executed by the school counselor. Sometimes other staff might do it, but oftentimes it’s the school counselor. It’s not a special education trained individual per se. It’s funded through general funds by the school. In fact, there’s generally no funding underneath a 504 plan.

Oftentimes 504 plans look like what we consider best practices in the classroom but sometimes we have to put some specific things in place. [00:17:00] For example, proximity to the teacher or access to a water bottle during class, some things like that we have to put in place because not every teacher teaches the same way and certain kids respond to certain supports.

Usually a 504 plan, it was originally designed under the Americans with Disabilities Act as a way to support children and teenagers who had a physical disability, like if you broke your leg and you needed to use the elevator, or for example, we have two kids on our practice that have leukemia and they have low stamina and so they have a different schedule and things like that.

So that was originally how it was designed, but now it’s often used for ADHD because ADHD is considered a medical diagnosis. Often used for other kinds of things like POTS or migraine disorders or things like that. That’s how [00:18:00] a 504 plan works. Do you want to add anything to that though? You may have a different perspective on it.

Dr. Sharp: No, I think you nailed it. I will say, usually for kids who have fairly significant anxiety or depression that doesn’t reach the level that it’s truly disruptive to their classmates, I would consider them in 504 territory and often we’ll talk with parents about that.

Amy: Yes, absolutely. Thank you for adding that because I had neglected that part. So absolutely. And then there’s the Individual Education Plan, which is a part of IDEA, which is a federally funded and sponsored program for children with specific learning disabilities; it could be reading, it could be math, it could be writing, it could also be a specific emotional disability that is severely impacting their learning. It could be an autism spectrum related disability that’s also [00:19:00] significantly impacting their learning.

Those do have funding underneath them because generally a staff member is tasked with the responsibility of managing those IEP plans. There are a lot of laws in place that protect them and there are a lot of laws in place that protect children who continue to maybe be chronic disruption and may need to find a different school environment.

So lots of different supports and laws underneath an IEP that gives it some more teeth in the scheme of things but either way, they’re designed to help kids and teachers too. They’re also designed to help teachers to be the best they can be.

Dr. Sharp: Right. Let me ask you, would you provide parents with all of that information that you just shared [00:20:00] with me as they head out to the school? Would you go into that much detail and let them know what they’re in for?

Amy: Well, to back up a little bit, if a family calls me, and this happens to us a lot, I’m sure it happens to you too. A lot of families call and they say, I think that or my pediatrician said my kid might have attention issues or my teacher says my son might have attention issues or we think he’s having some trouble with math and learning, they come with a vague question that they’re asking about.

And so the first thing we always talk about is, okay, well, where are you in school? What have you already explored and done? What do you know? Also I ask, what do you want to come out of this? What is the resulting outcome that you’re looking for? Because sometimes kids that are in certain situations, maybe they’re in a private school, they’re not going to get the kind of supports that they need from that school and they need to find a [00:21:00] different school or whatever.

So we ask all those questions first and in that process, then in that discovery, we do some education around, okay, this is what you could expect from this. This is a place you might want to look at for this. This is something you might want to investigate here. Those kinds of things. So we do that to start with.

We do a lot of education around that as well, especially if it’s a kid with an emotional issue, then of course, probably we’ve already been working with them and we’re at a point where they maybe need an evaluation or we need to work with the school to support an evaluation being done at the school.

Dr. Sharp: Maybe that’s something we could touch on just real quick because I run into some confusion around this a lot, but can you speak at all to what the schools are “required” to do if a parent asks for testing for their kids?

Amy: Right. A school is required currently by law within [00:22:00] 10 days of a written request to convene a meeting to discuss the child. Many school systems call it something different. They call it a child study. They might call it a local screening committee; they have all different kinds of names for it.

Basically, it’s a group of people that know your child and that are familiar with the system in the school, et cetera. They get together with the parents and have a conversation about, okay, what’s going on? Do we see the same things that the parents are reporting? Is this something that we have some concerns about that we may need to do some more investigating?

So there’s a whole big conversation around these questions. Is this something that we might need to look more into or do we need to maybe collect a little more data about what’s happening with that child in the classroom, pay a little bit more attention, put a few more eyes on them, and then reconvene this meeting in, say, 60 days or 30 [00:23:00] days and talk about this again.

They’re obligated to have a conversation. They’re not obligated, necessarily, to do anything beyond that unless it’s agreed by the committee and it is a committee decision, not an individual one. The committee agrees that they will they will then do the testing.

Dr. Sharp: Okay. Let’s jump ahead a little bit and assume, I see a lot of parents who, for whatever reason, they have not had testing through the school or been able to do that and so what I ended up doing a lot is helping bridge the gap between my private practice evaluations and the school, making recommendations that are helpful for school, helping parents take the report and put it in place at school. I would love to talk with you about your perspective on that and we could get into any number of things. Maybe we could start with how is it [00:24:00] to have a parent come in with a private evaluation and make requests about services, how do the schools perceive that in your experience?

Amy: Well, you’re right that for any number of reasons, a family may not be getting tested through the school system. Sometimes they are tested through the school system and the parents still want assessment outside the school system. We are just careful to make sure that they fully understand what it is that they’re asking for and of course, we have to make sure that we don’t give the same batteries that the school gave because we can’t have them get the same test and within a year. That’s a little bit tricky sometimes.

And so what we try to do is we try to make it as collaborative and friendly a process as possible. I guess I’ve been really lucky, I haven’t had a contentious situation [00:25:00] where the school hated us and was so mad at us for doing something. It’s hard for me to speak to that but I will say that we do try hard to make sure that the school understands that the parents requested this additional information and our job is to provide them with all the data and all the information that they might need to do the best job that they can.

We do convey that confidence in them that we know that with this data, they’ll be able to make even better informed decisions about the way they teach. That might be the difference versus, I know some clinicians will go in and say, well, this is the way you have to do it and why don’t you do it this way? This is the way the kid needs to be learning.

Well, it’s a little tough because not every teacher teaches the way that kid needs to learn, and we have to figure out [00:26:00] where is the happy medium. That’s where your classroom observation comes in handy, and we always do a classroom observation because sometimes we find that the way that the teacher is teaching needs some discovery. We have to have some conversations about, okay, well here’s where the kid is, here’s where you are, how can we find that happy medium? How can we help you?

That generally goes fairly well because we go in again with that confidence that we know that you are the experts in education and we’re giving you as much data as we can help you get about this kid. You see how that frame is a little different? The frame around we’re telling you what to do versus we’re giving you more information to do your job even better.

Dr. Sharp: Oh, absolutely. That feels entirely different to me. I wanted to maybe ask you, are there [00:27:00] anything in particular that you use to be collaborative with the teachers aside from just reaching out and saying, how can we help you? Here’s the data, anything else, tips you might have to actually collaborate and get on the same page as school staff during the course of the evaluation?

Amy: I take a two pronged approach to that. I take a short view and then I take a long view because I figure I’m going to be in business for a while and this teacher is probably going to be at Claremont Elementary for a while. I want more kids from Claremont Elementary come to my business.

In the short view, I make sure that I convey that confidence that here’s some more data. How can we work together? How can I help you? I do lots of, yeah, that sounds like a great idea. I love that idea. That sounds terrific. Lots of real positive affirmation.

But then in the long view, I also make some very copious notes for [00:28:00] myself about say, for example, Mrs. Jones, who teaches 3rd grade at Claremont Elementary School. I get a sense of what are the things that she might need. So for example, if she says to me something like, oh yeah, I always have kids every year who struggle with anxiety or gosh, yeah, I always have parents every year who ask me questions about how to help their kids do their homework.

I make a note of that and it’s like a good mom who keeps track of her kid’s Christmas wish list during the year, which I’ve never done, but I do this from a business perspective really well. And so if I come across something that I think that would help that teacher, I’ll send it. I’ll say, hey, Mrs. Jones, I know that when we talked before you mentioned such and such, I saw this and I thought you’d really like it.

Of course, sometimes I do that, even if I didn’t just see it. I know that I can send this thing to them and make that connection but I’m [00:29:00] always doing that. I probably spend probably a good hour a week doing that kind of thing; connecting with teachers and administrators and other psychologists and doing that kind of networking.

Dr. Sharp: Absolutely.

Amy: And then the other thing I do in the long view is I always offer as much education as I can to the school and I do it for free. I’ll do parent workshops. I’ll do teacher workshops. Usually, they’re only 60 minutes. I’m not going to be there all day long, but I will do them and I do them as almost like community service. So I don’t charge. I do a lot of them.

Frankly, it’s a referral source for me. I get paid that way as getting new clients, but also I’m just offering them something that they maybe haven’t had the opportunity to hear in that certain way or that they need to [00:30:00] know or that they’ve been looking for.

Dr. Sharp: How do you initiate those presentations? Do you reach out to them? Do they ask you? What’s the language you use?

Amy: It’s a little bit of all of that. When I first started doing this, I started offering and I would offer it to everybody and anybody. I made a double-sided sheet that talks about the workshops that I offer. It was really easy to get ahold of me and it was easy to schedule. I made it as easy as like no barriers to entry at all. Just made it super easy.

And so I did it enough that then people started to hear that I was doing it. And then I got more and more people to ask for me. Of course, I can say, no. I don’t spend all my time giving it away, but I do make a point of doing several workshops a month so that I’m out in the community and that’s another way that I get to know the school. They get to see my face.

[00:31:00] There’s so many clinicians that we work with, never see the school, never meet anybody there. It makes such a big difference when you have a personal connection and when you’re giving them something that they need.

I’ll tell you, the number one thing a counselor needs every year is an updated referral list on a magnet because every year you move offices and you lose all your stuff and all the referral sources you have from the year before are moved or they are out of business or they’re doing something new. And so now I’m starting to give a mini referral magnet that’s just like, okay, here’s the local child protective services number. Here’s the local community services board. Here’s the local food bank or whatever, because I’m just telling you, I knew from experience every year I lose that stuff because I’d have to move and I couldn’t find it and I wouldn’t have referrals and of course, I’m [00:32:00] on the referral magnet. So that works out perfect.

Dr. Sharp: Right. That is a fantastic idea. I love these very concrete ideas. And that is something honestly, I would never ever guess to think about, but that’s great insight. Thanks. Goodness.

I like these concrete strategies. I like that short view and long view. I will say too, I talked last week in the podcast about the importance of being out in the schools and that gives me a chance to get to know the front desk staff and sometimes the principal because they’re hanging around the main office. And then, of course, the teachers, when I’m in the classroom, that’s a big deal and it’s really nice for me to have that personal connection too because then that helps me know schools better and help the kid ultimately.

Amy: It sounds like I spend all my time doing this and I want to clarify that I don’t. Obviously, I do other things too. If we have [00:33:00] kids in our practice and they’re going to be in a play or they’re having a concert, a lot of times I’ll go to those and of course, I’m going there for the kid, but I’m also going there so I can meet the staff.

I always have cards and I’m like, hey, I don’t tell them who I’m working with, of course, because that’s confidential but I say, hey, I’m working with a few kids in your school and just wanted to say hi and I’d love to offer your staff a workshop on blah, blah, blah. 9 times out of 10, they’re like, oh, that’s great. That would be terrific. When can we get that scheduled? I follow up and boom.

Dr. Sharp: There it is.

Amy: Yeah.

Dr. Sharp: That’s great. Well, I know that, gosh, we have a lot to talk about. There’s so much that we can cover with schools. One of the really important things that you and I spoke about before was making recommendations that are useful and helpful and doable for the teachers when clients come from private practice evaluation back to the school. [00:34:00] Maybe we could jump to that because I think that’s super important and really helpful.

Amy: Absolutely. I was thinking, I know your podcast is designed for people that are in all different varying decisions regarding bringing testing to their practice. So some people who are super experienced already do this, but new people, I thought I would share about the recommendation bank because I think it works really well for me.

So what I have and I’m looking at it right now is a whole pack of files, there’s probably 50 files in this particular file folder. Each one is titled recommendations, and then it says what the recommendations are for. For example, Recommendations ADHD College Age, Recommendations ADHD Elementary Age. They go all the way down; Recommendations for Memory and Test Taking. [00:35:00] Recommendations for Mixed Dyslexia, et cetera.

So when I’m writing a report, I pull the most appropriate list of recommendations. And then of course, I go through them one by one and think about, okay, well, is this recommendation helpful for Johnny at school? Because there’s a section that’s school and then there’s a section at home. And then is this recommendation helpful for Johnny at home?

I also consider, is it realistic? So for example, if I know that a kid goes to a particular school that, I’m trying to think of a good example. Say that I know that this kid needs a lot of extra movement and a lot of extra opportunity to stand up and move around, but I know they go to a super traditional school where all the kids sit in desks, that I’ll make an important point around a recommendation.

I’ll add a little bit to it to say why this is really important so that they [00:36:00] can understand I’m not just saying it just because it’s on my list, I’m saying it because I know this is a must have for this kid. And so I make sure that they’re really good.

I started out giving a whole laundry list of recommendations when I first started doing this because I was so proud that I had such a long list of recommendations because that would, of course, make me so much smarter and better because I was giving all these recommendations and then I realized, no, that’s not really very valuable, just giving a whole big laundry list. It was overwhelming. I was excited because I thought it was so good, but then I realized, no, this isn’t adding value. It’s just adding volume.

I’ve toned that down a little bit, but there are times too and the one thing I was thinking about when we talked before was that there are times that people that are clinicians that have never worked in a school don’t really think through their [00:37:00] recommendations well because there’s sometimes people give recommendations that can’t happen or would not happen or don’t even really make sense.

Dr. Sharp: What are some examples?

Amy: A perfect example was I saw this report two years ago and it was by a clinician who I, and I respect anybody that’s doing this work because it’s a lot to do, but I knew they had not had been in the school and I was specifically keen to look at the recommendations. This kid was a third grader. The recommendation said, the teacher should provide copies of their classroom slides and/or daily lesson plan notes.

I thought, okay, well that makes a lot of sense if he was in 12th grade, if he’s lucky, maybe college, but there’s no 3rd grade teacher that teaches from slides and lesson plan notes. They have a plan but they don’t have that kind of material to give to a kid. That’s a very busy day with lots of things happening and it just didn’t [00:38:00] make sense as far as for that kid and knowing what was realistic for the teacher.

Sometimes you’ll see these recommendations where it says a teacher should be touching base with this child every 10 minutes. Well, okay, yes, maybe someone should be checking in with that kid every 10 minutes, but really, can we tell a school to do that or can we say the school should figure out … What I’ll say is something like, the school and classroom teachers should work together to figure out an appropriate schedule of intervening or communicating with the child to discuss progress, or something like that, because every 10 minutes, that just freaks people out.

And what happens is parents see that I said every 10 minutes and they think, okay, well, Amy said every 10 minutes, that’s what we have to have and when the school’s like, uh-uh, we can’t do that, then it seems like they don’t want to or they can’t. It seems like they’re just being mean and they don’t want to give it to the kid when it’s really [00:39:00] not about that. So then that’s where that contention comes up, I think.

Dr. Sharp: Yeah, I think you’re exactly right. I’m curious, thinking about clinicians and folks who are doing evaluation in private practice, is there any place to look or any guidelines for what might be appropriate versus not appropriate knowing that it could be school and classroom dependent, any resources that you know of that might help bridge the gap a little bit for realistic recommendations?

Amy: I think it’s funny and I feel like I’m preaching to the choir because I’m sure you have the answer to this already, but for your listeners, I think the smartest thing to do is start with some of the basics that you know are important for that disability, important things that would help be helpful, but then you have to continue to do your homework and you can’t stop.

So once you have your file that’s called Recommendations ADHD College Age, when you read research, when you go to the CHADD [00:40:00] organization website, when you go to a conference and you hear a good recommendation, or you do a classroom observation and you see a teacher doing something, a strategy that’s really good, you have to put it in your idea bank right away. You just have to put it right there and you just have to keep building it. It’s like saving money. You have to keep putting the money in, putting the ideas in and then modifying as you go along.

So I look everywhere for recommendations. I will say there are quite a few excellent books on recommendations that you can access through a variety of places. There’s one particular book that I use quite a bit. One particular website that’s excellent is, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, it’s wrightslaw.org.

Dr. Sharp: Oh, of course.

Amy: Yeah. So Pete Wright lives in Virginia and he is, for those that don’t know, an attorney and has worked representing [00:41:00] children for nearly 30 years. He was the representative in some big cases and then his wife is a psychotherapist. So he has many excellent recommendations on his website. I reference it frequently and also his book, the Special Education Law book which I have notes all in. I’m looking at it right now and there’s notes and tabs and earmarks and all kinds of things that explain IDEA and all of those kinds of things.

So wrightslaw.org, which is again, an excellent site with lots of good recommendations. ADHD, you can find lots of great stuff on the CHADD website and bp kids, which is bipolar kids, bpkids.org also has a number of recommendations for mood dysregulation in the classroom [00:42:00] and a few other places I’ve seen executive functioning issues in the classroom as well so it’s kind of a hunt and pack.

Dr. Sharp: We’ll link to all of those in the show notes just for those listening who might be driving or running or something. We’ll have those for you to check back out.

Amy: The other book that I like is called The Complete Guide to Special Education. It’s by Linda Wilmshurst and Alan Brue. It’s designed for parents, teachers, and administrators. Actually, this may not even be the newest edition. So there may be even a newer edition. This is 2010.

It talks a lot about all the different disabilities, and the evaluation criteria. And then it has a whole section on guidelines for successful interventions. So lots of different interventions are listed in here that are really helpful.

Dr. Sharp: Fantastic. I have not seen [00:43:00] that one. I’m going to go look it up.

Amy: The thing I missed doing is some of that more of the motivational side of things, understanding some of the things that are barriers to kids that maybe are not necessarily learning related; motivation and depression and anxiety, bullying, those kind of things. I do miss that kind of stuff when I’m doing a lot of educational evaluations, but those are interesting.

Dr. Sharp: Sure. One thing I wanted to ask about before I let you go, and I really appreciate your time today.

I wanted to ask, we were talking just in supervision this morning with my graduate students about how to word things in the report so as to not step on any toes at the school. To just use the right language, I think that’s collaborative and supportive for school counselors and school staff. I’m not sure [00:44:00] if that’s clear or not, but in our reports, for example, I’ll say something like, it’s recommended that parents consult with staff at school to determine eligibility for special education support, and I’ll leave it open like that.

I have seen reports though, where they say, based on such and such diagnosis or disability, first-name kid should be considered for an IEP immediately or something like that. I’m curious, how do you approach that? What are your thoughts on that?

Amy: No, I’m not in the position of telling people what to do. I’m in the position of building teams, not building dictatorships. I would say exactly what you say, which is, it might be something to consider or the family should consult with the school staff to discuss a plan moving forward to support this child. It could potentially be helpful to execute an IEP plan, or something like that, or based on [00:45:00] this child’s diagnosis, they would likely qualify for special education services, something like that, I might also say, if I think it’s an urgent matter.

Also somebody, oh, gosh, now I’m laughing because I think this might have been on your podcast. I was going to say someone gave me this idea the other day, and it must have been you, which is writing a cover letter. Actually, we do that more now than we used to before. A cover letter that summarizes the report.

I know you do it for the referral source which we’ve always done that, but what we’re going to do now, in addition to that is, if there’s a classroom teacher, we’re going to do a brief bulleted strengths and weaknesses kind of thing with some brief strategies on it for the classroom teacher because I know classroom teacher can read a 33-page report. Well, they can, but they don’t [00:46:00] want to, and they don’t have time to so I’m going to try to do some more summaries for them, which I think will be really helpful and I think they’ll appreciate.

Dr. Sharp: Yeah, absolutely. I like that idea. I will do that, actually, not as frequently as I should. We do with the referral sources, like you said, but if parents request a short summary, I’ll give that to them to pass along to the school but now you’ve got me thinking, that’s a fairly not very time intensive task that is pretty easy to put together that would help the teacher.

Amy: Because I figured just like my referral letter, I can have a template and I’m going to make it a little bit more reader-friendly. It’s not going to be like a letter format. It’s going to be more like an infographic, is my thinking about it. I haven’t actually conceived of the whole thing yet, but I was thinking like an infographic that gives you some insights into what this kid can do really well and what this kid needs some support in [00:47:00] and two quick things on how you could support this kid. So that’s what I’m thinking.

Dr. Sharp: I love it. Well, Amy, thank you so much for your time. Before I let you go, two things; one, any other parting thoughts about bridging the gap from private practice to schools or related to anything we talked about today?

Amy: The main thing I’ve been thinking about ever since even I started hearing your podcast was how little we collaborate because so oftentimes we feel this sense of, well, I don’t want to give away business or that person is my “competitor”. I think that’s a big mistake. I think families connect with who they connect with and if we don’t talk about things, oftentimes we get stuck in our mold and we do things the way we’ve always done them, the way we learned in graduate school and this is the way that Professor Z taught me this, and I don’t know any other way.

A lot of times other people do things different ways that are better and we should be willing to hear them. [00:48:00] And so I would say my main thing is to say we should be working together more because we’re here for kids and if we all work together, then the things will ultimately be better for everyone.

Dr. Sharp: That’s a great message. I have to say too, just in the brief time that we have been talking with one another, I think that’s really jumped out about you too, is that you have been really free with sharing information and how you do things. All of this, including our podcast today has got me thinking about how I might do things differently and shift in our practice. It’s really exciting. Like you said, it’s all in the name of helping kids and that’s what it’s all about.

Amy: Exactly.

Dr. Sharp: Well, Amy, thank you again. If people want to get in touch with you or learn more about you or your practice, how can they do that?

Amy: We have a website. It is thewisefamily.com [00:49:00] and they can connect with us there. There’s a link to schedule an appointment with me. I have office hours three days a week and I give away 15 minutes of my time and 15-minute increments as often as I can to talk to families about what’s going on with them and how I can help them. So you can do that on our website.

I have three clinicians that work for me that see kids in therapy and then one that does just testing and assessment. We always appreciate people connecting with us and working together and being part of our family, The Wise Family.

Dr. Sharp: I like that name.

Amy: Thanks.

Dr. Sharp: Yeah. Well, thank you so much. This was great. I really appreciate your time. I think this will be helpful for a lot of the folks who are listening. So thanks, Amy.

Amy: Terrific. I can’t wait to hear your next podcast. Keep them coming.

Dr. Sharp: Thank you. Take care.

Amy: Okay.

Dr. Sharp: Bye-bye.

Amy: Bye.

[00:50:00] Dr. Sharp: All right, everybody. Thanks for listening to that interview with Amy Fortney Parks. Like I said during the interview, I feel like I’ve learned so much just in the relatively brief time that I’ve known Amy. She is so free to share information and she has some great ideas about how to connect with schools, do marketing, build your practice, and bridge the gap between private practice evaluations and the school district. I hope you learned something there and hope that you’re enjoying the podcast.

If you are enjoying the podcast and like what we’re doing here, there are any number of ways that you could help me promote it; you can share it on social media. You can share it on your own blog or your own podcast.

You can leave a review, you can rate the podcast in iTunes or Stitcher or Google play or anywhere you might listen to your podcasts and any of those things will be so appreciated here as I continue to build this and grow and try to develop [00:51:00] this community and resources for folks who want to do testing in private practice.

If you want to find out more or get more resources, you can always head over to the website, which is thetestingpsychologist.com. Check out any number of articles, or past podcast episodes.

If you want to get some guidance or strategies to build testing services in your practice, you can check out the four-week blueprint, which is at thetestingpsychologist.com/fourweekblueprint. And that’s a weekly series of emails over four weeks that’ll give you some pretty concrete ideas for launching or growing testing services in your practice.

So thank you as always for listening. Like I said, this is the second in what’s turned out to be a two-part series on schools. We’ll see what happens next week if we continue that trend or shift to something different but I do know that we have some cool interviews coming up with [00:52:00] Maelisa Hall of QAPrep and with Erika Martinez, a neuropsychologist in Miami who’s now focusing on career enhancement and building the ideal life for 20 and 30 somethings. So we have some cool interviews coming up. Thanks for listening and we’ll catch you next time. Bye bye.

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