One in five children have a diagnosed learning disability. Millions more have undiagnosed learning differences and struggle with anxiety and other mental health challenges that impede learning. These staggering statistics are actually pre-pandemic, so we don’t even know the full impact of the stress and disruption on student learning and mental health. Worse yet, there is a critical shortage of school psychologists and mental health providers in our schools.
If you’re not familiar with what a school psychologist does, they help uncover how kids learn best, what they need to thrive at school and in life, and they team up with families, teachers and other school support staff to get students what they need to learn. That support may be in the general education setting or require special education, and school psychologists have the expertise to match student need with the right support. On a school-wide level, school psychologists are also skilled at looking at students need on the whole and supporting early intervention programs that help all students.
Unfortunately, with a national shortage of school psychologists, instead of proactive support, school psychologists often operate reactively and are in crisis mode all day. This is a recipe for burnout and school psychologists leaving the field, which leaves our students with learning differences and emotional challenges left without the support they need.
I know this challenge all too well from personal experience.
When I first started out as a school psychologist, I was assigned one elementary school, one middle school, and one high schools to cover, which amounted to a caseload of around 2000 students, many of whom had special education needs. Sadly, this is not an unusual statistic. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of 1:500, but the national average is 1:1211 and higher in rural and under-resourced districts.
With my high caseload, I found myself being a “diagnose and adios” school psychologist, where I would only have time to test students once their struggles had gone on so long that they needed an evaluation for special services. I would test, hold a meeting, and provide parents with one hour of my time to provide support to understand their child’s learning difficulties.
I knew deep down that we could do better for kids and families, but I was stretched too thin.
I jumped around to other districts and the problem was the same: School psychologists were overworked and underutilized. Support came too late. We spent all our time putting out fires and had no time to “look at the wiring” to intervene earlier and prevent school failure.
I knew I wasn’t alone, and I knew there had to be a better way. I started a blog and Facebook page to connect with other school psychologists and figure out together how to address the critical shortage of school psychologists in a time of ever-rising student needs.
Then this happened…
How it Started
You know those posts that were circulating around social media a while back that showed “how it started” and “how its going”?
Well here’s mine…
In 2017, I created an online course and community called The Thriving School Psychologist and school psychologist leaders joined to learn how to move from being overworked and underutilized to having a bigger impact in our schools, beyond crisis intervention and diagnosing challenges. Just a few years later, and we are over 1000 members strong and are growing every day!
Additionally, nearly half of all school psychologists in the country are now a part of our larger online community! I had no idea that one blog and course could create a movement, but I’m so grateful! What these numbers speak to is the groundswell of energy among school psychologists who want to be a part of the solution to reduce burnout and improve the ways we support students with learning differences.
With this much support behind the movement, in 2022, I joined forces with the incredible Sarah Eisenberg Hauser, entrepreneur, to grow and scale the mission. Sarah comes with over 20 years of experience in the education technology industry, with extensive background in marketing, education and business (and, fun fact…we met in a mom’s group when our babies were 3 months old, so we’re longtime friends as well).
We expanded Thriving School Psychologist into a new organization, the Thriving Students Collective. We now support over 1500 school districts to help school psychologists, teachers, and parents with burnout prevention tools and practical resources for promoting student learning and mental health.
This brings me to the exciting news…
How It’s Going
We are beyond thrilled to announce that Thriving Students Collective was just announced as a recipient of the New Schools Venture Fund Learning Differences EDge Fund grant to advance our work supporting students with learning differences, specifically those who also experience the impacts of poverty and racism.
NewSchools Venture Fund is a national nonprofit that supports and invests in teams of educators and innovators that have bold visions to reimagine learning. Funded teams focus their efforts on serving student populations and caregivers that have been traditionally underserved or overlooked, and engage students, families and community members early and often to help inform their solutions.
Our Next Steps to Support Families of Kids with Learning Differences
The investment from NewSchools will fuel our mission to help kids THRIVE, no matter what zip code they live in, life circumstances, or their learning profile.
We believe that providing support to caregivers, educators, and mental health providers is the foundation for successful interventions for children in schools to reach their full potential. It’s why our motto is “When We Thrive, Our Students Thrive!”
It also means we are now a part of an incredible cohort of 10 other innovators that are also charged with supporting and empowering students with learning differences and their caregivers, specifically those who are also facing the impacts of poverty and racism.
Our vision to reimagine supporting students with learning differences starts from the premise that silos of intervention don’t work. We need a unified space to provide 360 degree support around kids with learning differences and mental health challenges. And we need to scale our support to reach families who may not otherwise have access.
This investment will help us support families of children with learning and emotional needs and the providers at school who care for them through our new video streaming platform, Thrive Hive TV network.
Thrive Hive TV brings school psychologists and educational experts into the home, with short 3-5 minute long videos for parents who need support right away.
(It’s kind of like if Netflix and TikTok had a baby…but the library of videos are all created by trusted professionals and give practical and research-based advice on how to support kids’ learning and mental health).
Check out Thrive Hive TV here! (Free trial available!)
A Moment of Gratitude
None of these big dreams would be possible without YOU.
To the school psychologists who have been following my blog since the beginning and my Thriving School Psychologists banding together to make a difference…thank you.
To the parents who have collaborated with me over the years and my wonderful parent liaisons in the schools helping to get Thrive Hive TV to all the families in special education…thank you.
To the incredible team of Thrive Hive TV contributors and collaborators bringing wisdom to our communities….thank you.
To my incredible new CEO, Sarah Eisenberg Hauser, and VP of Operations, Mike Attia, for believing in the dream of empowering every family with a child with special needs to understand their child and be able to advocate for the support they deserve…thank you.
And of course, to NewSchools Venture Fund for helping turn our dreams into reality by choosing us as a 2023 recipient of the EDge fund grant…a big thank you!
Here’s to a bold and beautiful 2023! We’re just getting started…