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XPsych.com​

Everything Counts

Is it time to stop writing psych reports?

I'm not responsible for this... this is to be blamed on thinking.


Even though I was trying not to, I started thinking again. I keep telling myself to try to stop it because thinking is just not encouraged in education, but it happens every now and then. I'm sorry. I'm trying to stop this bad habit.


Thinking happens.

It's up to you."

John Lennon


Let me explain my excuse for thinking... here's how it all started:


I showed up at the IEP meeting with my psych report in hand, just like I always do. I looked around and noticed that no one else had a report...


The nurse didn't have a report. 
The special education teacher didn't have a report. 
The general education teacher didn't have a report. 
The principal didn't have a report. 
The parent didn't have a report. 
The student didn't have a report. 
The director didn't have a report. 
In all fairness, I'm certain that had the speech therapist been there, she would have had a 35-page report.


On one hand, I'm thinking it's probably okay that school psychologists show up with reports. School psychologists, after all, are the ones who, when everyone else in the district is lost and confused, show up and not only save the district from a huge lawsuit, but provide empowering recommendations and services for students. So, okay, fine, I guess we can keep on testing and writing our reports to serve students and districts. I try to be fair. Go ahead and keep doing that. That is what we do, after all. We test, we write our reports, we diagnose. Somebody has to spend their career calling students horrible names like disturbed, disordered, impaired, disabled... why not you and me?


"I'm a school psychologist, therefore I write reports."


But really, when you (i.e., I) think about it, the psych report could have 8,000,000 recommendations, but only the recommendations of the IEP team "count." Here's an example: let's say I show up with my nifty 12-page report (including all legal components as identified by 10,000 pages of law) and recommend, say, counseling for the student. But for whatever the reason, counseling is not agreed to or recommended by the IEP team. No matter what my recommendations are in my report, they aren't "official" and cannot be implemented unless and until they become IEP team recommendations.


I'm always amused when someone says, "What did the last psych report say?" It doesn't matter what the last psych reports said -- all that matters is what the IEP team decided.


So maybe this is a polite way of telling you I don't read your reports. But don't get too upset. I know you don't read my reports either. I hope you have better things to do than sit down and review what some shrink wrote two years ago. I hope you're working directly with the student rather than sitting down and reading two-year-old reports. If you do read reports, I hope you, as a scientist, read skeptically. I know I do.


You know your student better than I do and I know my student better than you do.


Plus, we all know that a student might have a learning disability in one district, but, um, not in the district down the street (think about that -- whoops, no, don't think about that)!


If you've diagnosed a student with a learning disability (and hopefully you would never do that -- it takes a team decision to diagnose SLD)... well, why would I want to read any further -- we all know that really means the district or the school has given up on the kid. But I'm not attacking you -- I do that too -- that's what we all do. Why? Because that's what we do.



Ultimately, what you or I, as school psychologists, write really doesn't matter... what matters it what the IEP team recommended.


How is it that a nurse can show up and somehow find a way to make a recommendation without a twelve-page "Nurse's Report?"


How is it that a special education teacher can show up and somehow find a way to make a recommendation without a twelve-page "Special Education Teacher's Report?"


How is it that a general education teacher can show up and somehow find a way to make a recommendation without a twelve-page "General Education Teacher's Report?"


How is it that a speech therapist can show up with a 35-page report?


How is it that a principal can show up and somehow find a way to make a recommendation without a twelve-page "Principal's Report?"


How is it that a parent can show up and somehow find a way to make a recommendation without a twelve-page "Parent's Report?"


How is it that a student can show up and somehow find a way to make a recommendation without a twelve-page "Student's Report?"


How is it that a director can show up and somehow find a way to make a recommendation without a twelve-page "Director's Report?


I'm thinking school psychologists drew the short straw.


It's actually a pretty convenient process when you think about it -- whoops, sorry.


I keep hearing everybody else is "too busy" to write reports. Apparently school psychologists are doing nothing all day and have nothing but "free time" to sit around and type 12-page reports. If that is truly the case, then let's give it up, what do you say?


So whenever we all go off to court, who's the one person who's neck is on the line? The one person who has had the courage (or is legally required) to put his or her findings and recommendations in writing. And we get to start every meeting by outlining to the parents exactly who and how to sue if they want. And school lawyers from both sides love to pull out the report and attack it. It's an interesting process -- lawyers aren't educators and psychologists aren't lawyers, yet both are expected to be each. And lawyers always get the final say. What an [interesting] time in which we live and work, eh?


I don't know about you, but I could work with a student and show up to the meeting ready to make powerful, effective, empowering, and professional recommendations for the team to consider just like everyone else WITHOUT A 12-PAGE REPORT. Could you?


I bet you could.


Either everyone on the team should be required to show up at the meeting with a report... or no one should. I know I could better serve society, students, and the district if I could just work with students.


So, ultimately, no one will ever read this rant so it's a moot point. But I miss the "team" in IEP team. And I think it's pretty much a waste of taxpayer's money to pay [us] to sit down and write out beautiful 12-page reports that no one will ever read or if they do, they're just looking to sue us. I would ask you what you think, but I know you aren't reading this.


"Any time spent not working with students is wasted time."


"Think."

John Lennon 

Happy 4th of July!


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