Psychology Solution Focused
What is this? We concentrate on children's learning and achievement, their social and emotional needs, and we implement accommodations students may require to enhance their educational experience. For well over a decade special education, in cooperation with general education, has worked diligently toward early intervention and prevention in hopes of maintaining children in their natural environment. But we recently have been afforded a "window of opportunity" to perhaps do better. The Iowa General Assembly passed the new Administrative Rules of Special Education in July, 1995. These rules provided opportunity for change and also required each AEA in Iowa to write a plan for the 1996-97 school year. The Administrative Rules are permissive in that they encourage each AEA, and subsequently each LEA, to create a unique delivery system.
The Mississippi Bend AEA has written a new plan called The Solution Focused Intervention Plan which has been enthusiastically approved by the Iowa Department of Education. Tenants of this process have been taken from the principles embedded in Solution Focused Brief Therapy.
More than simply techniques, Solution Focused Brief Therapy is a way of thinking about problems, solutions and people's intrinsic strengths and resources. This model moves away from a deficit to a competency model which generates positive proactive change. It helps students and educational professionals identify their own strengths and resources and utilize them toward achieving their relevant goals. This non-blaming way of thinking shifts the focus away from what is wrong in people to what is strong in people and their competence rather than their deficits. There is less focus on "problems" and more focus on empowerment, strengths and exceptions to those problems in order to promote solutions. Rather than dwelling on the past and engaging in lengthy "problem talk" about mistakes, weaknesses and causes, the focus is on what worked before and what our customers want, what their goals are and which solutions can help them achieve those goals.
What we feel are the most salient features of the Solution Focused Intervention Process are highlighted below:
- early intervention for all students who are having difficulty
- support services provided to general education students without concern for whether they have a disability
- assessment done to help develop and evaluate appropriate interventions, not to label and place in special education
- teachers and parents encouraged, even more, to help develop interventions and assistance
students who are eligible for and need special education may not require a label to receive services
- The Solution Focused Intervention Process assumes that all students should be educated in the least restrictive environment. Whenever a student is identified as needing assistance, all initial efforts are geared toward designing interventions to help the student be successful in general education.
Intervention recommendations should be linked to assessment information that is generated by student specific questions. Only after general education-based interventions have been exhausted is special education considered as a possible intervention.
Our Solution Focused Intervention Process shall attempt to resolve concerns in general education prior to considering a full and individual evaluation of a student's need for special education. One of the shifts that occurs when moving from our former model to a solution focused model is when teachers indicate a desire for assistance. In a solution focused approach teachers will be encouraged to utilize help of support staff earlier in the process.
There are four levels of service in this delivery system. A brief description of levels A through D follows
Level A - Initial Intervention:
When concern is expressed about a student's performance (academic, behavioral, social/ emotional, physiological, sensory, etc.), the concern is addressed initially through communication and collaboration with parents and teachers. Mississippi Bend AEA support staff are not involved at this level.
Level B - Collaborative Intervention:
If the student does not attain the performance goals set by the parent and teacher, the teacher who has a concern may then request consultation and assistance from the building's Teacher Assistance Team (TAT), Mississippi Bend AEA support staff, and/or other community resources. At this level Mississippi Bend AEA support staff will not provide direct services to the students. In cases where the severity and need are at such an intense level that there is little question regarding the need for special education services, the team may choose to go directly to Level D.
Level C - Collaborative Intervention which may involve Mississippi Bend AEA:
If the second level of assistance is not sufficient to meet the needs of the student or if additional resources are needed to clarify the concern, written permission is obtained from the parent through a Support Service Intervention Consent form. If previous screening of hearing, vision, and health have not previously occurred, they will be initiated at this level to examine their potential relation- ship to the presenting concerns.
At this level, Mississippi Bend AEA support staff are included as part of solution focused activities such as assessment, instruction, counseling, and progress monitoring. The intent of assessment at this level is to use the latter for intervention plans within special education including systematic changes designed to assist the student in attaining performance goals.
Assessments are tailored to answer student-specific questions. Assessments may include but are not limited to reviews of already existing student information; student work samples; results of parent, student, and/or teacher interviews; informal assessments; curriculum based assessment; observations/systematic observations data; and results of standardized tests or rating scales which measure ability, achievement, and/or social/emotional/behavioral strengths and needs of the student.
Examples of other direct services that require the consent form at this level include individual or group counseling and short term classroom interventions for a specific student. The intervention plans that are implemented and monitored at this level are documented on the Intervention Plan form.
Level D - Full and Individual Evaluations:
When little or no improvement in the student's performance results from the previous interventions attempted within the general education setting or when the resources that are necessary to maintain the solution focused intervention exceed the capacity of the general education setting, the need for special education services will be considered. Written parental consent is obtained through the Consent for Full and Individual Evaluation form to initiate this process.
An objective definition of the presenting problem(s) must be stated in terms that are as specific, measurable, and data-based as possible. These descriptions must be designed to assist in quantifying the severity of the concern in comparison to peers and environmental expectations and suggest target goals for which intervention strategies will be developed. The student's strengths or areas of competence relevant to the presenting problem(s) also must be identified. Any necessary additional assessments are driven by student-specific questions and previous intervention outcomes.
Students, parents, special education staff, and Mississippi Bend AEA support staff will be increasingly involved in designing student interventions carried out in general education, the home, and the community. The previous dichotomy of special and general education should become more blurred as all educational services are increasingly blended to assist students in the Least Restricted Environment (LRE) possible.