Interview with Itxaso Cembrero on her daily activities at Kings as a school
1. What does a typical day look like for you?
Although every day at Kings College is different, my day starts at 8:00 answering emails, meeting with parents and school staff. Later on I start seeing the children that have an assigned time for their sessions as they require behavioural, emotional, or social support. When I’m not in session with children, I use the time to carry out psychoeducational evaluations, observe and update the school’s programme, iSAMS.
2. What are the primary concerns that you address at school?
Emotional concerns: fears/ worries, loneliness, difficulties adapting to a new environment, self-esteem issues, stress management, anger management and separation anxiety and anxiety in general.
Behavioural concerns: organization difficulties, tantrums, attention seeking behaviours, potty training, attention difficulties, and defiant behaviour amongst others.
Social concerns: friendship issues, social skills, and inadequate interactions.
3. What types of diagnoses do you make?
When doing psychoeducational evaluations alongside with the speech and language therapists we diagnose a variety of learning difficulties, the most common being: dyslexia and dysgraphia. When there is a concern regarding the children’s executive functioning, specific attention tests are also administered in order to rule in or out an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I also take into consideration and evaluate if a possible emotional or social difficulty may better account for the child’s difficulties. If the concern is more related to a developmental issue, the children are referred to an external team that have specific tests that determine the child’s developmental stage.
4. Do you treat children with anxiety or emotional problems as well?
I am a clinical psychologist and at school I do work with children who go through emotional difficulties and/or anxiety. However it is important to mention that when these symptoms appear in an intense and frequent manner, we encourage the family to see a therapist outside of school. When the family gives their consent for school to be in contact with the external professional, we all work towards the same goals and the child’s improvement is significant. Even if the child is seeing an external professional, I am always available may the child need support inside school.
5. What is your communication with teachers like?
I have a very close relationship with all the teachers and as a result we communicate on a daily basis. We have weekly meetings to monitor the children’s progress and together decide what the best next steps are. When the child is receiving external support, the teacher and I have frequent meetings with them so that we are all working on the same goals.
6. What is your communication with parents like?
Before I start working with a student, I always get in contact with his/her parents so they can give me their valuable feedback regarding their child. After this, they are free to communicate via email or in person for any doubts or comments they wish to make. Depending on each child, I try to have a weekly, monthly or trimester meetings so that progress can be assessed.
7. How do you incorporate their observations into your work with students?
As parents they have a vast knowledge about their children, so their observations are vital for my work with them. It is important for me to know any change in behaviour or mood so that I can give the child and parents adequate strategies.
8. Do you refer students to outside services?
Yes. When I observe that the difficulties the child has, are more related to physical causes, I refer them to occupational therapists, behavioural optometrists, neurologists etc. On the other hand, as mentioned before, when the behaviours the child is showing are of a high intensity and frequency I usually refer them to an external psychologist. This allows one hour sessions to be provided once or twice a week with the children and family if needed.
9. Are you an active figure inside classrooms?
Once the difficulties have been detected or the concerns have been made explicit, I observe children in the classroom so I can provide specific strategies from which the child benefits from. I also participate in learning walks that allow me to see if the accommodations that have been implemented are useful or if they need to be modified. Furthermore, in some occasions I have worked with children inside the classroom to help them become more functional (socially, emotionally and academically).
10. What is your role within the school staff?
My role is to make sure children are as happy as possible within the school environment. As teachers spend the most time with children on a regular basis, I try to guide them and help them with all the difficulties that may arise inside and outside the classroom. With the collaboration of the speech and language therapist we make sure the teachers are aware and understand the difficulties each child has so that with their expertise they can best support the student.