Data from our needs assessment was used to identify our gaps and the delivery of our small groups. With the assistance of our school psychologists and school social workers during a departmental meeting, we solicited ideas of topics to cover in small group responsive services based on the survey. The topics of social skills and anxiety continued to be a theme that wound through the issues that were discussed. From our needs assessment, anxiety was indeed a subject that students felt they needed assistance. In fact, 15.6% of the 1500+ students that participated indicated that they would like assistance in controlling their anxiety that interferes with their school day. Furthermore, over 23% of those polled indicated that stress over tests negatively affects their academic performance either always or most of the time. We also looked into factors that influenced when students were reluctant to attend school. 20% indicated that they either didn’t feel they fit into their school, had a conflict with a friend or classmate, or lacked connections to the school. Using ASCA’s Mindset & Behavior tool, we identified the self-management skills of B-SMS 5, B-SMS 6 and B-SMS 7. Furthermore, it was felt that addressing the ASCA Mindsets of M1, M2 and M6 would ultimately enrich both the students and the school environment as a whole. It was decided that three groups would be created to address social behaviors and generalized anxiety. Each group would address the benchmarks of increased school involvement, increased school attendance, and increased social behaviors as criteria of success. All activities were chosen through evidence based programs and research analysis that pinpointed the areas that needed to be addressed.
To deliver interventions more effectively, the Anxiety Management Group was developed to address our most anxious students in the building. Since Ms Radziszewski, is trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which is considered the gold standard to treating anxiety by many researchers, all the members of the Student Service Team felt that it would be best that she lead the sessions. The use of DBT to teach students how to acquire emotional and cognitive skills, and generalize them to the school setting was something that was construed as important. Prior to the Anxiety Group being created, it was difficult to know if students were obtaining skills through individual meetings with Student Service Staff. However, through the group meetings, the data collection was more frequent as well as more accurate. By earmarking ASCA’s mindsets and behaviors, the lessons that were created focused on a target for both leader and student. While the Anxiety Management group will continue into the next school year, a greater emphasis on asking better questions such as what students are saying to themselves during Mindfulness (How do I feel right now?).
The Life Skills Group led by our School Psychologist, Steve Mihalopoulos, and Counselor, Tim Spiegel, was developed to address the disproportionate number of students that have a diagnosis of Intellectual Disability (ID) or Autism which were being referred to Student Service Staff for emotional regulation. Data was pulled from school referral reports that showed that students diagnosed with ID or Autism were being referred by school staff when it was felt that they couldn’t redirect inappropriate social behaviors. It was determined by the group of Student Service Staff that through increasing student’s awareness of emotion regulation and social boundaries, they would increase appropriate social behaviors and practice what they have learned. Guided by ASCA’s Mindsets & Behaviors targeted standards, students were led through an evidence based program called The Zones of Regulation. The consistent meetings through the school year allowed for more frequent data collection and deeper understanding of social boundaries for quicker intervention. When considering future Life Skills Group interventions, including Life Skills program staff in data collection will be essential for reteaching.
The Connections Group, led by our School Social Workers Mary Angioletti and Janet Radziszewski, was developed to address the statistically significant number of students who felt they lacked a sense of belonging and established social connections at school. Counselors, social workers, and psychologists collaborated to select students that fit the criteria established for the group. Following the targeted ASCA standards, the content of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skill Training curriculum allowed for data collection that drove topics of follow-up meetings. The results of this group demonstrate that when considering future group interventions, counselors should consider advocating for additional clubs or organizations that address the interests of Connections Group.