Saturday, May 25, 2024

LSUS’s school psychology specialist interns present case studies

by BIZ Magazine

SHREVEPORT – Eight school psychology specialist interns who have been embedded in districts across the state and country returned to LSUS to share their experiences Friday for the 13th annual SSP Intern Day.

The year-long internship is the final step to completing a three-year graduate degree as a specialist in school psychology, registering 1,200 hours working in a parish or county school system.

Shaquavia Durden, an LSUS school psychology specialist intern, presented her case study at the conclusion of her year-long internship in Caddo Parish. Eight interns presented Friday at the 13th annual SSP Intern Day at LSUS.

“This experience teaches you how to work with children, youth, families and teachers to create the biggest impact on our students,” said Dr. Katherine Wickstrom, the LSUS SSP internship coordinator and associate dean of the College of Education and Human Development. “Our interns conducted case studies in which they implemented some kind of technique or program and then tracked its progress and measured the results.

“Whether its academic issues or behavioral issues, out goal is to be part of a multidisciplinary team that makes sure our students succeed.”

Five of the eight interns’ case studies centered on behavioral issues while three focused on academic areas.

Kenzie Farquhar was stationed in Lincoln Parish and worked with a fourth-grade student “Lilo” whose language skills were on a kindergarten level.

Farquhar implemented “Lively Letters,” visual flashcards that taught letter sounds and progressed to simple words.

These illustrated letters – like a fire-breathing dragon wrapped around the letter ‘F’ to remind the student of the letter’s sound – are designed to eventually give way to the normal letters without illustrations.

“The goal was to target her letter sounds and use nonsense word fluency to improve her knowledge of letters and the sounds they make,” Farquhar said. “This was an effective intervention with ‘Lilo’ having a 50 percent increase in correct letter sounds and a 20 percent increase in phonological letter skills.

“This occurred with just four weeks of the program, meeting twice a week for 30 minutes.”

One benefit of these intern case studies is the collection of data surrounding particular programs or techniques, which can increase support of these programs from teachers and administrators.

Shaquavia Durden worked with seven different Caddo Parish schools ranging from early childhood education to high school and even one virtual school.

Durden conducted assessments and evaluations for students who might have academic disabilities or be academically gifted, counseled students and assisted with interventions among a variety of tasks.

“I’ve had a great experience in Caddo Parish, and it’s important for me to intern in Caddo because I’m a product of Caddo,” Durden said. “We’re a diverse parish of 73,000 students, and I’ve had the opportunity to see some of our most fragile children and some of our most brilliant minds.”

Durden implemented a “Good Behavior Game” for first-graders, reporting significant behavior improvement both with a decrease in negative behaviors and increase in positive behaviors.

Bian Alwadi implemented a system to eliminate out-of-seat behaviors in a first-grade Bossier Parish classroom.

Alwadi tweaked a reward system already in use by the teacher to reinforce hand-raising and ignore other undesired behaviors aimed at getting the teacher’s attention.

The system did significantly reduce first-graders getting out of their seat without permission – from more than once per minute to about once every three minutes.

But Alwadi believes more consistent implementation would have yielded greater results.

Other interns included Danae Pannebaker (Denton Independent School District in Texas), Andrea Fau-Canabal (Denton), Jasmyn Davenport (Lamarie County in Wyoming), Christina Kilcrease (Webster Parish) and Manali Patel (Katy, Texas).

The interns, who are expected to graduate in May, enter a field in which new graduates are sorely needed.

According to a 2021 survey by the Louisiana School Psychological Association, the state has one school psychologist for every 3,187 students. The national average is one for every 1,119 students, and the national recommendation is one for every 500 students.

“I want to congratulate our interns and thank them for choosing a field that’s in tremendous demand right now,” said Dr. Robert Smith, LSUS Chancellor. “The mental health of our students and the need to address psychological challenges when students are young is extremely important.”

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