New psychologist comes to ASD


Photographer: Lojain B.

A large part of Ms. Murphy's job is to oversee students' psychoeducational evaluations.

Lojain B., Reporter

Most students will probably be surprised to find out ASD has a new psychologist. 

Many we spoke with did not even know the school employs such an expert until we told them.

In fact, ASD has had a school psychologist for two years already. The first one, Ms. Robin Schwandt, was recently replaced by Ms. Tracy Murphy. Ms. Murphy has been a school psychologist for nearly 20 years, and she just transferred to ASD from Saudi Arabia.

So what exactly is the purpose of a school psychologist?

Keep in mind, she isn’t the typical child psychologist like those who work at clinics or hospitals. 

Ms. Murphy said that her “job has many different pockets,” ranging from working with the counselors, to helping kids with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, to completing psycho-educational evaluations for kids who are struggling academically or behaviorally. Educational psychologists also often look for potential learning disabilities.

What led ASD to hire a school psychologist? 

Dr. Thomas Hawkins explained that four years ago, “the psychologist that the school was using got a letter from the government saying that if you’re not [affiliated] with a school or a clinic, you can’t be a private practicing psychologist.” 

When ASD lost its ability to provide support for and get children tested by an outside expert psychologist, school authorities changed their approach and tried bringing in an individual psychologist for two weeks at a time. The drawback was that the person was only able to do psych testing, not to provide other helpful services. 

After several years, administrators decided they needed their own psychologist for the demands of a large, Pre-K through high school international school with a wide range of challenges for a variety of students.

Dr. Hawkins believes that both educational psychologists have “already had a good impact on the kids across the school.” He said that he thinks what they’ve “been able to diagnose and prescribe in terms of accommodations and interventions has been highly beneficial.”

For the future, Dr. Hawkins says that “My personal opinion is that we [should] continue with [the school psychologist], and a school of this size could possibly even have more than just one educational psychologist.”

What would Ms. Murphy like to add to the school concerning mental health?

Ms. Murphy agreed that the school has a lot of resources and that ASD has already done many great things for students socially, emotionally, and educationally. However, she said she would like to add a type of peer-mentoring program that would provide training and supports to enable students to help their peers.

She explained that she supports such a program in our school because “what’s powerful is kids supporting kids.”

Ms. Murphy said, “I know that for the most part, students, especially adolescents, are suffering in silence and who they turn to is their friend… . I think that the way to go… the approach is by supporting students to support one another… . If you think of mental health, prevention or support as a safety net, I just think that we have to make sure that we have multiple ways of catching people, so that no one suffers in silence anymore.”

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