Does my child really need an Educational Psychologist?

In South Africa there are a number of types of psychologists in practice, with varying areas of speciality. An educational psychologist works with children of all ages to assist them with regards to learning and development. They therefore help children and young people with emotional, learning, academic, intellectual, behavioural, social and developmental difficulties.

How Educational Psychologists Work

Educational psychologists work with young people and their families, to help them to achieve their full potential. An educational psychologist will work closely with not only the learner, but also gather information from the family and any other individuals who are involved in the child’s life. This can include teachers, other therapists and health professionals, tutors, etc. The reason for this is to ensure that the psychologist has a thorough understanding of how the child functions in various environments, as this can differ from setting to setting. The more information that is gathered, the better the psychologist can assist.

Depending on whether an assessment, counselling, parent guidance, family therapy, etc. is required the various role players will be involved at different stages. As the saying goes “it takes a village to raise a child”, we need to ensure that we work together as a team. The teacher may be an expert in education, the therapists are experts in their fields, and the parents are an expert of their child. We therefore need to work together as a team in order to ensure that we are helping the child as effectively as possible.

Scholastic Assessments

If either you as the parent or the teacher have noted any difficulties that your child may be experiencing in the classroom, a scholastic assessment can be helpful in identifying what your child’s strengths are, as well as the areas of concern. Difficulties could include reading, writing, spelling mathematics, concentration, emotional regulation, etc. An educational psychologist looks at how an individual learns, and stores knowledge, particularly in educational settings such as a classroom. This process includes emotional, social, and cognitive learning processes. They assist with individual differences in learning, gifted learners and barriers to learning. Based on these individual differences, they explore the best ways to teach and assess, the most conducive classroom environment to suit that particular learner, as well as factors such as social and behavioural difficulties that may negatively affect a child’s learning. The educational psychologist will make any referrals if necessary to other health professionals, alternative schooling environments, additional learning support, etc. They will also make practical recommendations for the parents and teachers with regards to what they can do at home and in the classroom setting to best support the child, according to their strengths and difficulties.

Subject Choice and Career Assessments

At the beginning of Grade 9 in public schools in SA, learners have to choose between various subject options. This can often be a daunting task as it can have an effect on studies after school. From Grade 11 and 12 onwards, a learner and their family have to consider studying or other alternatives for their first year after matric. This is quite a decision to make for an 18 year old. We each have different abilities, personalities, interests and values. These play a large role in determining the environments we prefer and the types of activities that we enjoy. An educational psychologist also works with the individual to explore their personality profile, aptitude, work values, and interests in order to guide their decision making regarding subject choice, choosing the correct schools, universities, studies and possible career opportunities.

Counselling, Parent Guidance, and Workshops

Educational psychologists also assist with both individual and family counselling to address emotional difficulties that may be impacting upon the child, their learning and development. Parent guidance sessions can be given, with regards to a range of topics such as dealing with divorce, grief, discipline, adoption/fostering, etc. Educational psychologists will also often provide talks and workshops to parents, learners and/or educators on any topic relating to learning and development. Some talks can include study methods, the effect of video games and screen time on your child, identifying barriers to learning in the classroom, cyber bullying, etc.

Helping Your Child Reach Their Full Potential

We are all each unique, with a specific set of skills and talents. We therefore cannot use a one size fits all approach. Helping your child to explore their strengths and style of learning, while acknowledging their difficulties so that they can be addressed early on, is key to assisting them in reaching their full potential.

“Behind every child who believes in themselves is a parent who believed in them first” – Mathew Jacobson

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