Key personnel in the school environment:
Principal – This person is your immediate supervisor, even if not identified in your official chain of command. Your relationship with him/her is vital to your success. Always keep your principal informed of what’s going on in your office. They need to know if you have a child with health issues that are impacting their school performance. They need to know about angry parents in order to prevent the parent from approaching them about a topic they are unaware of. Let them know if you have a case of lice, infectious disease cases, injuries that may require medical attention, injuries that are a result of faulty equipment or damaged property, altercations, and employee accidents or injuries.
Secretaries – the secretaries are the hub of the wheel. They know everything about everything in the school. They know the families and all their idiosyncrasies. Make friends with them…you need them.
Custodian – the custodian gets things moved, cleaned up, and repaired. This is another person you want to have on your side.
Psychologist – the psychologist does not function in the school setting as you traditionally see them in the clinical setting. They are in charge of evaluating children to see if they are in need of special education services. They perform IQ and other academic testing to see if a child qualifies for special education. They run the special education meetings for the most part.
Social Worker – the social worker also does not function in the same capacity that they do in the clinical world. They are involved in the special education evaluation process also by determining if a child is capable of meeting their own self-help needs in school, able to make friends, and adapt socially to the school environment. They provide service minutes to students on a weekly basis if a need is identified by the special education team. They are also involved in assisting with children who may be victims of neglect or abuse.
Counselor – Some schools have a counselor, others don’t. They perform all kinds of different roles depending on the school they are in and the age of the children they are servicing. The counselor assists with behavior challenges and social difficulties when working with younger children. At the high school level, they assist with career counseling and course selection planning.
LD Resource teacher – this person provides extra help to students who need help in certain subjects such as math and reading. The extra help is provided in the form of special education (see Special Education Process). In most school settings, this teacher assists students during part of their day and the student is placed in a general education classroom.
Speech Pathologist – the speech pathologist’s job is quite different from the function they perform in the acute care setting. In the school setting, the speech pathologist provides therapy to students during their school day for two types of problems: articulation and language. Articulation therapy is given to students who have difficulty speaking intelligibly. Language therapy is given to students who have difficulty processing language. These children may have difficulty expressing themselves or interpreting what others are saying. (receptive language deficit). Language processing problems can severely impact a child’s ability to learn.
Occupational Therapist – The occupational therapist provides one on one therapy to students who have therapy minutes in their individualized education plan (IEP). The type of therapy they provide for the students may be assistance with strengthening muscles for fine motor tasks (writing) and modalities to improve sensory processing. The occupational therapist also makes accommodations in the classroom for the student with physical disabilities. This may include changing things in the school environment to meet the needs of the student.
Physical Therapist – the physical therapist provides one on one therapy to students who have therapy minutes in their individualized education plan (IEP). Their main goal is to assist in strengthening the student’s physical abilities to allow for them to safely and effectively manage their day in school. They are usually treating students with physical disabilities. They ensure that they can safely maneuver the bus, classroom environment, physical education class, and playground.