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School Psychology News

Psychological Services' Quarterly Newsletter Fulton County Schools

Website: Issue 3 Spring 2001

From the Editors...

A Message from Evelyn Backa and Betsy LeBeau School Psychology News appears to be a hit! We are continuing to receive positive feedback from our readers. Please remember that your feedback is valuable and helps us make decisions about the content of the newsletter. For example, this issue features articles on bipolar disorder in children and adolescents. The inclusion of these articles is a direct result of a request we received on our feedback form! The goal of the School Psychology News is to provide practical, timely information that will assist Fulton County teachers, administrators, and support staff in working with our students and families. Therefore, let us know what you would like to see! In a random drawing taken from our feedback forms, Cathy Freeman of Woodland Elementary School, was selected as the winner of this issue's prize. We will be drawing again for the next issue, so don't forget to send in those feedback forms! As always, special thanks go out to the team of dedicated staff members who help to get these issues to press: Madeline Reuter, Betty Roesel, Pam Oliver, and the contributing school psychologists.

Coordinator's Corner

A Message from Dr. Arletta Brinson, Coordinator of Psychological Services WOW!!! The third edition of School Psychology News is now complete. The department has received wonderful feedback on the contents of the past two editions and the ways in which schools are sharing the information with others. Please feel free to duplicate the entire newsletter or specific articles. Also, School Psychology News is posted on our website at This edition contains articles on bipolar disorder, sensory strategies, and at-risk learners, all of which support the system goal of student achievement. The achievements of staff are also highlighted. I salute the staff who has gone the extra mile to fulfill their assigned duties and also produce this helpful newsletter. I also want to publicly thank the entire Psychological Services staff who personally purchased books for donation to the schools in honor of School Psychology Week during February. This has been an exciting year for Psychological Services as we have participated in the revised Student Support Team Process, the implementation of the new State Special Education Regulations and other services. For more information on a topic, please contact your assigned psychologist. If I can personally be of assistance to you, you may call me at 404-763-5612 or email me at [email protected] "An understanding heart is everything in a teacher, and cannot be esteemed highly enough. One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feeling. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vi tal element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child." -- Carl Gustav Jung


Editor's Notes; Coordinator's Corner Bipolar Disorder in Children and Adolescents Bipolar Disorder vs. ADHD; Sensory Strategies At-Risk Learners Wonderful Websites; Food for Thought

School Psychology News ­ Page 1

Bipolar Disorder in Children and Adolescents

Submitted by Evelyn Backa Bipolar disorder (also known as manic-depression) is a treatable medical illness. It is a disorder of the brain marked by extreme changes in mood, energy, and behavior. Symptoms typically occur in adolescence or early adulthood. Until recently, a diagnosis of the disorder was rarely made in childhood. Symptoms Bipolar disorder in children is often characterized by an ongoing continuous mood disturbance that is a mix of mania and depression. Symptoms may include:

· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · an expansive or irritable mood rapidly changing moods (a few hours to a few days) explosive, lengthy, and often destructive rages separation anxiety defiance of authority hyperactivity, agitation, and distractibility sleeping little, or sleeping too much bed wetting and night terrors strong and frequent cravings (e.g., sweets) excessive involvement in multiple projects and activities impaired judgment, impulsivity, racing thoughts, and pressure to keep talking dare-devil behaviors inappropriate or precocious sexual behavior delusions and hallucinations grandiose belief in own abilities that defy the laws of logic (e.g., ability to fly).

Treatment There is no cure for bipolar disorder. However, early intervention and treatment can minimize the adverse effects of the illness. A good treatment plan usually includes medication, close monitoring of symptoms, education about the illness, counseling for the child and family, stress reduction, good nutrition, regular sleep and exercise, peer support for parents, and accommodations at school. Educational interventions may include:

· · · · · · · · · communication notebook between home and school reduced homework and extended deadlines when energy is low books on tape when concentration is low unlimited access to drinking water and the bathroom goals set each week with rewards for achievement social skills groups and peer support groups extra set of books at home extra time on tests special education services

For more information about bipolar disorder or intervention strategies, please contact your school psychologist. Resources

National Mental Health Association Phone: 800-969-6642

National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association Phone: 800-826-3632

In adolescents, the symptoms may include:

· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · elevated, expansive or irritable mood decreased need for sleep racing speech and pressure to keep talking grandiose delusions excessive involvement in pleasurable but risky activities increased physical and mental activity poor judgment pervasive sadness and crying spells sleeping too much or inability to sleep agitation withdrawal from activities formerly enjoyed drop in grades and inability to concentrate thoughts of death and suicide low energy significant change in appetite

The Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation 1187 Wilmette Ave, PMB #331 Wilmette, IL 60091 Phone: 847-256-8525

The symptoms of bipolar disorder can resemble symptoms of ADHD or other disorders. The diagnosis can only be made with careful observation over an extended period of time. (Please refer to the article "Differentiating ADHD and Bipolar Disorder").

The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking. -- Albert Einstein

School Psychology News ­ Page 2

Differentiating ADHD and Bipolar Disorder

Submitted by Pilar Meek

Summary of "Differentiating ADHD and Bipolar Disorder in Children and Adolescents" in the Georgia Association of School Psychologists Dialogue. Original article written by David Learner, Ph.D. of the North Shore Children's Hospital in Idaho.


Even with interest and motivation, have significant difficulty staying fully involved in academic tasks. Symptoms often improve as the child gets older. Stimulant medication may cause an improvement in symptoms.

When a child is inattentive, impulsive, and hyperactive, the natural assumption is that the child has ADHD. However, this is not always the case. These same symptoms occur in various syndromes that are frequently misdiagnosed as ADHD. One such syndrome is Bipolar Disorder, which on the surface can look deceptively similar to ADHD. Looking carefully at the reasons why the behaviors are occurring and the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of interventions may help in differentiating one from the other. The following information may be helpful in determining the similarities and differenc es between the ADHD child and a child with a Bipolar Disorder: Bipolar Disorder

Ø Ø Ø Ø Ø Exhibits psychotic symptoms & gross distortions of reality. Temper tantrums characterized by anger and rage over limit setting; very difficult to calm the child down. Anger and rage may lead to destruction of property; purposeful. Generally have slow arousal levels resulting in irritability; sleep problems, nightmares. On first meeting someone: Unsociable, rejecting toward others, may be hostile, sarcastic, or attempt to compete intellectually. Can be motivated to overcome inattentiveness and complete academic tasks. Symptoms generally become more dramatic as they get older; impulsivity may become more difficult to control. Stimulant medication may cause destabilization.


Sensory Strategies

Submitted by Judy Jones At a recent Fulton County cluster meeting, physical and occupational therapists gave an excellent presentation on sensory strategies to use with students who have sensory processing problems including: being overly sensitive or under-sensitive to touch or movement (tactile defensiveness), having problems with body position or posture (awkward), having difficulty with motor planning (praxia), selfstimulation, difficulty modulating arousal level (staying alert but relaxed), difficulty with transitions (change in routine), or impaired learning (processing). These students might also have a learning disability, intellectual disability, AttentionDeficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, autism spectrum disorder, or Fragile X Syndrome. In addition, students with behavior problems may have sensory needs that drive the behaviors rather than willful manipulation or defiance. A sensory diet can be incorporated into a student's day at home and school to provide sensory input necessary for the student to experience and interact with his environment. Depending on the student's needs, a sensory diet may include the following strategies: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Comfort or pressure touch ­ brushing, hugs. Tactile activities ­ sand, water, or rice tables. Calming activities ­ low lights, swinging. Arousal activities ­ brighter lights, movement. Body position activities ­ weighted vest, jumping. Movement activities ­ exercises, stretches.


Attention Deficit Disorder

Ø Ø Ø Ø Ø Ø Denies events or misattributes blame or responsibility. Temper tantrums due to overstimulation (sensory or affective). May break things due to carelessness, accidental. On first meeting someone: generally pleasant toward others. May have difficulty settling down and may get up early.

Dr. Fritz Mengert's brain based research has shown improvement in attention, learning, and memory when associated with sensory experiences. At Alpharetta Elementary school, teachers are working with Dr. Mengert to develop sensory strategies to use in the classroom to enhance learning. For more information and/or additional strategies, contact the school psychologist, occupational therapist, or physical therapist at your school.

School Psychology News ­ Page 3


Submitted by Katie Aldrich

The following information was presented by Dr. Jean Baker at a workshop sponsored by Metro West Georgia Learning Resources System (GLRS) and Cobb County Psychological Services.

c. d.

Providing information and accurate feedback to support task mastery rather than evaluation. Providing unconditional support for the child (not the child's misbehavior).


Reduce the number of transitions between supervisory adults during the school day thereby increasing the stability of relationships with adults. Increase the frequency of feedback exchange between teachers and students. Reinforcement strategies should be implemented contingent on positive behaviors. Use of punishment should be minimized. Shape peer culture by:

· · · · Teaching pro-social competencies. Adults should label and model caring, respect, and consistency. Consistently enforcing expected standards regarding peer behavior (i.e. 2 "putups" for 1 p ut down). Placing children in cooperative and interactive learning arrangements (peer reading, center activities). Teaching conflict resolution skills.

Where does risk reside? The following variables are associated with school failure: · · · · · Personal pain (substance abuse, attempted suicide, physical and verbal abuse) Academic failure (retention, referral for special ed.) Family tragedy (death, illness) Family socio-economic status (unemployment) Family instability (divorce, frequent moves)



Research has shown that social connectedness with others is a prerequisite to learning. Learning occurs within a social context of shared and mediated learning experiences. Critical aspects of effective learning environments include: · · An emotionally supportive classroom in which positive regard for others is modeled by the teacher and encouraged in the students Classroom structure that permits sustained attempts at mastery and integration


Take advantage of "teachable" moments

· · Within everyday social discourse Within informal teacher lessons

Intrinsic Motivation Strategies: In an authentic learning community each individual is valued as an integral part of the community. The teacher facilitates learning by providing a sense of psychological safety, engagement, cohesion, and motivation to fulfill community goals. Ø TARGET

T ­ Tasks are varied, engaging, & authentic A ­ Authority is shared and democratic R ­ Recognition for mastery attempts not competition G ­ Grouping is flexible, collaborative E ­ Evaluation is based on progress toward goals T ­ Time allocation is flexible and involves individual choice.

Creating Classrooms which Support Caring, Connected, Contributing Learners

Relationship-based Strategies: Ø Classroom meetings containing four components:

· · · · Greetings Sharing Activities News and Announcement

Family Engagement Strategies: Ø Families and Schools Together (FAST) is a parent empowerment process, the goal of which is to increase the likelihood of the child being successful in the home, at school, and in the community.


Use of language to:

· · · · Develop a sense of mutuality and joint endeavor (i.e., "we're hard workers"). Reinforce the class purpose (i.e., "we're all paying attention, that helps us learn"). Label and reinforce behavior that supports a sense of community (kindness and cooperation). Communicate care and support by: a. Demonstrating emotional attunement. b. Labeling and reflecting emotional states in children to support self-regulation.

Ø Homeside activities involve parents in students' school activities. The 15-20 minute activities

· · · · Are built around conversations between children and parents Deal with topics related to schoolwork May involve the child in a writing or drawing activity Help create a partnership between school and home

Continued on page 5

School Psychology News ­ Page 4

At-Risk Learners continued from page 4

Effective educational innovations require:

· · · A deep understanding and commitment to the selected program by the entire staff Effective, school-wide implementation Evaluation of effectiveness, corrective feedback, and refinement of the program over time Resources

Learner-centered psychological principles -- American Psychological Association: The Responsive Classroom: The Child Development Project: Families and Schools Together (FAST):

From If...Questions for the Game of Life Submit your response!

Food for Thought...

Responses to last issue's If question (If you could receive one small package this very moment, who would it be from and what would be in it?): "A message from my mom who is in a nursing home." "The package would be from a close friend with two tickets to Hawaii for us." "It would be a make-over package certificate!" "It would be from my mother-in-law ­ a picture of her smiling with my children, with a happy note enclosed." This month's question: If you could have the answer to any question, what would you ask?

Wonderful Websites

Whenever you find a stumbling block, use it for a stepping stone. -- Bill Keane, Family Circle cartoon

Feedback Form

Please cut out and return this form to: Newsletter Committee, Psychological Services Department Jo Wells

What I liked best about this newsletter:

What needs changing:

I would like to see in future issues:

My answer to the "If..." question:

Name/School (optional):

By submitting this form with your name and school information completed, you will be automatically entered into our quarterly prize drawing! Winner to be announced in the next issue.

School Psychology News ­ Page 5

Excellence In Action!

Take a look at what Fulton County school psychologists are doing around the county!

< On December 14, Evelyn Backa and Lisa Pennington conducted a workshop for the Pre-K parents at Love T. Nolan Elementary School. The workshop was entitled "Social Skills Development in Three to Five Year Olds." On January 25, Fulton County school psychologists Judy Jones, Beth Koehler, and Jennifer Schau presented on dual exceptionalities (e.g., TAG and LD) at the Council for Exceptional Children Conference in Athens, GA.


< <

Jennifer Schau and Instructional Support Teacher Amy Penn conducted an inservice for teachers at New Prospect Elementary on January 30. The topic was "Tailoring Teaching Strategies to Student Learning Styles.. Carolee Pearce was a judge for the fourth year in a row for the FCBOE County-wide Spelling Bee held at High Point Elementary on February 1. Carolee also gave a presentation to a Centennial health class on the duties and roles of a school psychologist. From February 1 ­ May 17, school psychologists Shirley Crothers, Melisha Gilreath, and Jennifer Schau will be teaching a joint Fulton County Staff Development/GSU course entitled "Assessment for Exceptional Children" to prospective special education teachers. "Parent Involvement: Helping Your Child Succeed during Testing". On February 20, Ellen led a workshop for preschool parents on the "Development of Socialization Skills in Four and Five Year Olds."


< Ellen Miles Jones, school psychologist at Gullatt Elementary, spoke at the PTA meeting on February 15. Her topic was


Shirley Crothers, school psychologist at Tri-Cities High, participated with other teachers, counselors, staff members, and students in Fulton County's Peer Diversity Training Program.

Psychological Services Department Jo Wells Building 554 Parkway Drive Hapeville, GA 30354

School Psychology News ­ Page 6



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