In honor of National School Psychology Awareness Week (November 12-16 2018), we’re introducing you to each of our 10 school psychologists, and letting them explain what their jobs in our schools look like. They’re also going to debunk some common misconceptions about their roles (hint: they do not have fainting couches in their offices).
Meet: Colleen Oza, SSP, NCSP
What does a regular day in your job look like?
Each day is different! On any given day, we may administer, score, and/or interpret assessments; meet with at-risk students; conduct observations; consult with teachers, specialists, and/or administrators; assist with the development of academic and/or behavior interventions; analyze and interpret progress monitoring data; and attend meetings to discuss students’ progress or concerns.
What elements of your job are you particularly passionate about?
I am passionate about working with students who have endured a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and with students who struggle with mental health issues – especially anxiety. As one of two school psychologists in the county who is certified to conduct evaluations for students with TBI, I like how in-depth and challenging these evaluations can be. I find it very rewarding to help parents and students affected by TBI understand how and why a child is struggling.
What exactly is TBI?
TBI refers to a brain injury that is external (like from open/closed head injuries) or internal (like from strokes, aneurysms, infections, kidney/heart failure, tumors, surgeries, etc.) that results in functional or psychosocial impairments. TBI evaluations are comprehensive and generally include assessments by the school psychologist, speech therapist, and occupational and physical therapists. When looking at the possibility of a TBI impacting a child’s educational performance, we are looking for impairments in various cognitive abilities, speech/language, memory, attention, processing speed, reasoning, problem-solving, motor abilities, sensory processing, etc. It is fascinating to see how brain injury to one part of the brain will cause skill deficits in some areas but leave other skills completely intact.
You mentioned working with student struggling with anxiety. What does that look like?
More children are being identified with anxiety, and I have seen firsthand how it impacts students – whether it manifests as physical discomfort, social-emotional challenges, behavior/anger outbursts, or academic difficulties. I love helping students see how their symptoms are related to their thoughts, feelings, or emotions, and teaching them methods that they can use to combat their anxiety.