Educational Psychology focusses on an individual’s functioning within the domain of learning and development. With this domain spanning across a number of years as children grow, it can’t be argued that Educational Psychology is a diverse field offering a range of services to suite each stage of development. Educational Psychological support is also not only limited to children, parents and families, but is also available to teachers and communities where parental and teacher workshops provide in-depth information on various topics.
In development, working with parents of younger infants within the Sensorimotor stage of Cognitive Development (Birth to 2 years), Parental Support and Guidance is provided. Play Therapy with children as young as 2 to 3 years old is also initiated, where clients are able to start their journeys in learning and development with the assistance of an Educational Psychologist from early on. One of the keys to success is identifying difficulties as early as possible, in order to assist clients in overcoming and adapting to their individual circumstances.
Within the Pre-Operational stage of Cognitive Development (2 to 7 years), Educational Psychologists provide support through Developmental Assessments; Behavioural, Social & Emotional Assessments and Support; School Readiness Assessments; Psycho-Educational Assessments – as well as Play Therapy and continued Parental Support and Guidance. All assessments are conducted with the aim of assisting parents, children and teachers in dealing with identified difficulties.
The third stage of Cognitive development is the Concrete Operational stage (7 to 11 years) where children start to think logically with regard to concrete objects and events, begin to use classification, understand mathematical concepts and to achieve. Educational Psychological support again includes Psycho-Educational assessments to identify any learning, social or emotional difficulties that may impact on children’s abilities to achieve to their maximum potentials. Identification of Learning Difficulties such as ADHD/ADD; Dyslexia; Dysgraphia; Dyscalculia; Reading & Comprehension, Slow Processing Speed; Poor Working Memory (to name a few) are assessed. Support in the area of Learning Support as well as Study Skills & Methods are offered by some Educational Psychologists. Individual therapy is introduced during this stage to assist with emotional, social and behavioural difficulties which may further impact performance. Typically the well-known areas of anxiety, divorce, family/relationship difficulties, grief, trauma, bullying, emotional/social difficulties and various disorders can be supported through therapy.
In the Formal-Operational stage (11 years and beyond), adolescents can explore logical solutions to concrete and abstract concepts, understand and reason by analogy, metaphors and hypothetical thinking. Here Educational Psychologists offer additional assessments to assist in future planning and education. Subject Choice Assessments are typically conducted in Grade 8 to assist children in choosing subjects that they will carry through to the end of their High School education. These are based on aptitudes, interests and personality. Similarly, Career Guidance and Assessments are conducted with children in Grade 11/12 to assist in tertiary education decision-making. Within this phase of education (Senior and FET phases), children who struggle with specific barriers to learning (e.g. ADHD/ADD; Emotional Difficulties; Medical Conditions which affect scholastic performance – Hearing, Sight, various Health Conditions – require Concession and Accommodation Assessments. These assessments aim at providing children with an equal opportunity to perform to their full potential and do not provide an additional advantage over others. Typical concessions/accommodations include additional time, rest breaks, medication/food breaks, separate venues, enlarged text and computerised examinations (to mention a few). Individual Therapy is also an option for support throughout this stage of development and is commonly utilised by adolescents adapting to change, struggling with relationship difficulties and various emotional and social challenges. Where families require support as a unit, Family Therapy is offered across all stages of development to assist in various needs of the family unit which may be in crisis, suffering loss or struggling to manage individual difficulties that members of the family may be faced with e.g. managing behavioural, emotional, social or educational difficulties.
Educational Psychologists are not limited to working with children only. Career Guidance and Assessments, as well as Concession and Accommodation assessments are also offered to students within tertiary settings, or to those aiming to study further, as well as to adults wishing to make a career change. Support for teachers and parents can also be provided through Talks/Information Evenings and Workshops on various topics e.g. ADHD; Learning Disorders/Difficulties; Concessions & Accommodations; Bullying, as well as a variety of topics according to specific needs within a school or community.
Lastly, some Educational Psychologists have furthered their training and expertise to include working within, for example, Child & Family Mediation where they assist parents in divorce/separation scenarios to draw up Parenting Plans in the best interest of the child – an element required as part of the legal documentation in Divorce. Others have entered into Medico-Legal and Forensic Assessments to assist in claims of personal injury and loss, and placement and emotional assessment in legal matters where children are concerned.
The benefits of enlisting the services of an Educational Psychologist are extensive. As a parent, it is important to know that you do not have to be alone in struggling to deal with difficulties. Lastly, certain medical aid plans also cover the costs of assessments in part/full depending on the specific plan. Early identification and intervention is key to assisting any individual with difficulties.
By: Megan Clerk