Lessons from the Annual Conference of the Int'l School Psychology Association
By Erika Schmitt, School Psychologist
Waking up at 3am comes with the territory when you’re an international psychologist, international student, or international anything, really. This was the case for me this summer as I happily, finally flipped open my laptop in the United States to attend and present at the 42nd Annual Conference of the International School Psychology Association (ISPA) in Cyprus. In 2015 I discovered this organization that would later lead me to Linden as an intern. Ever since, I have been itching to attend an ISPA event. My chance came in 2020. Unfortunately, the conference was postponed until 2021 due to the global pandemic.
It was well worth the wait. The organization’s first hybrid conference was attended by approximately 400 people from 37 countries on four continents. The theme: “Working with schools and families to strengthen children.” The mission (according to Anthi Loutsiou, General Chair of the Local Organizing Committee): to “strengthen systems of support around children and build networks of connection across lines of separation.” True to their reputation, the diverse group of ISPA members proved to be warm and welcoming. From black critical race theory to teacher burnout, I learned a lot from my colleagues regarding the conference’s earnest theme and wise mission. Allow me to share just a few highlights:
IN CYPRUS: I learned about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for children in a workshop by Dr. Maria Karekla. I am adding her Acceptance and Commitment Therapy-based psychotherapeutic story, Anna and the Box, to my personal tool kit. It is based on research conducted by the ACThealthy laboratory at the University of Cyprus and all book proceeds are returned to the ACThealthy laboratory to promote psychotherapeutic research (Karekla & Constantinou, 2017). To purchase the book, click here: https://www.jccsmart.com/account/log-on?ReturnUrl=%2Fe-bill%2Finvoices%2F2491%2Fpay
IN ISRAEL: Practitioners are running resilience prevention and intervention programs during the pandemic by creating online “Resilience-kits” for families and children in quarantine (Rozenblat et al., 2021). They focus on flexibility, positive thinking, gratitude, supportive connections, emotional regulation, and self-compassion. To view the tool kit, click here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1gbCGJZ2ZlqzM8U7vnnbvZ8EIrDuEDaHp/view?usp=sharing
IN JAPAN: I discovered a new way to support students with high needs in high school: video! Behavior plans that include video self-monitoring can help keep high school students with severe intellectual disabilities on task (Ota, 2021).
IN SWITZERLAND: Presenters Stahel & Moody (2021) discussed how bully-victim-bystander roles shift. A child can fill any one of these roles but sometimes their perceived best option is to become a bully in order to avoid becoming a victim. Results from focus groups suggest that effective interventions for bullies involve “beneficial aloneness;” breaks during the school day for children to reflect or work independently and be separated from peer influence for a period of time. (Bonus: this presentation’s slides were bilingual in French and English!)
IN THE UNITED STATES: Researchers gave tips on the delivery of professional development in schools. For instance, measures of professional development’s success should be based on student outcomes, not self-report measures. It is also important to continue to offer consultation to teachers online if that is their preference (Hazel et al., 2021). Furthermore, in-service training to address issues such as disability stigma is effective for improving desired student outcomes and helpful for teachers, especially for teachers who report having time constraints (Salinger, 2021).
IN GERMANY: I learned about an ongoing bottom-up approach to better understand the day-to-day work of school psychologists in the country by surveying school psychologists and experts themselves in 15 of the 16 German states (Von Hagen et al., 2021). For open access project updates, click here: https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/6KQYB
I recently said “Auf Wiedersehen” to Germany, and with it, Linden, to pursue my doctorate in school psychology at Texas A&M University in the United States. However, I did not say goodbye to my international community. I am grateful to the ISPA conference committee for providing such a bountiful conference and the opportunity for me to re-engage this community. I look forward to my next ISPA conference, in person!
Hazel, C., Bowers, K., Levenson, R. & Ritchie, G. (2021, July). Considerations for consultation professional development during the COVID-19 pandemic [Poster]. 42nd Annual Hybrid Conference of the International School Psychology Association, Nicosia, Cyprus.
Karekla, M. & Constantinou, S. I. (2017). Anna and the box: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy psychotherapeutic story for children.
Ota, K. (2021, July). Self-monitoring package on increasing on-task behavior in high school students with severe intellectual disabilities [Poster]. 42nd Annual Hybrid Conference of the International School Psychology Association, Nicosia, Cyprus.
Rozenblat, R., Ben-Shlomo, N., Dreyfuss-Hanan, Uzan, C., Sharabi, N. (2021, July). “Resilience-kit” for families and children in quarantine: An example for the promotion of community resilience during the covid-19 pandemic [Paper]. 42nd Annual Hybrid Conference of the International School Psychology Association, Nicosia, Cyprus.
Salinger, R. (2021, July). Supporting teachers’ in addressing disability stigma in the classroom [Poster]. 42nd Annual Hybrid Conference of the International School Psychology Association, Nicosia, Cyprus.
Stahel, T. & Moody, Z. (2021, July). Tackling school bullying: bystanders and school community to take action [Paper]. 42nd Annual Hybrid Conference of the International School Psychology Association, Nicosia, Cyprus.
Von Hagen, A., Müller, B., Vannini, N., & Büttner, G. (2021, September). Scope of school psychological practice in Germany. https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/6KQYB