Doctor of Philosophy in School Psychology (PhD)
Forgotten need: Re-constructing a sense of belonging through culturally grounded participatory action research with a local refugee community
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School-Based Mental Health, Educator Mental Health Literacy, Services for students with special needs
This exploratory study investigated a range of factors that might predict whether students with behaviour disorders and mental illnesses would or would not successfully complete high school. The data for this study, extracted from the BC Ministry of Education database, included all students born between 1991 and 1994 who were enrolled in BC public and independent schools identified with behaviour disorders and mental illness (N = 16,498). A descriptive, quantitative analysis was conducted to identify associations between a range of variables - (a) demographic information, (b) school engagement factors, (c) Foundations Skills Assessment (FSA) performance, and (d) special needs designations - and completing or failing to complete high school. Logistic regression analyses identified the predictive probability of factors associated with graduation or failure to graduate. Secondary analyses were conducted for two sub-populations of students with behaviour disorders and mental illnesses, Aboriginal students and English Language Learners, to determine if similar differences existed between students who complete high school and those who do not. The study found evidence that students with behaviour disorders and mental illnesses in British Columbia have the poorest school completion rates in comparison to any other group of typical or special needs students in the province. Attendance at non-standard schools, grade repetition, multiple school changes, and early departure from school were significant predictors of the failure to complete secondary school. Students of Aboriginal ancestry were grossly overrepresented among students with behaviour disorders and mental illnesses and at a significant disadvantage with respect to high school completion in comparison to all other peers.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by clinically significant impairments in social interaction and communication and repetitive, restricted behaviours. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (2014), the prevalence of ASD in children has increased to 1 in 68, with more children being identified without significant cognitive impairment (i.e., high-functioning autism [HFA]). With the increase in the number of children diagnosed with HFA, there is likely to be an increase of young adults with HFA attending college or university, as they are generally capable of meeting the academic demands of postsecondary education. Unfortunately, studies have demonstrated poor postsecondary educational outcomes for students with HFA (e.g., Shattuck et al., 2012). Despite having the neurocognitive and academic ability to attend college or university, there are many students with HFA who do not enroll in postsecondary education or drop out soon after entry (Shattuck et al., 2012). There is a critical need to better understand the experiences of students with HFA in postsecondary education to help foster their postsecondary success. To that end, this study investigated the meaning of the lived experiences of students with HFA currently attending college or university.Using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis as the method of inquiry, 12 postsecondary students (9 males and 3 females) diagnosed with either HFA or Asperger’s Disorder engaged in detailed, in-depth interviews with the researcher. Eight broad themes and corresponding subthemes emerged from the data analysis that depicts the phenomenon of attending college or university as students with HFA. The themes are 1) Managing Academic Expectations; 2) Experiencing Support; 3) Managing Autism Spectrum Disorder and Related Symptoms; 4) Reference to or Influence of Past Experiences; 5) Having a Sense of Appreciation; 6) Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder by Others and Self; 7) Managing the Transition; and 8) Entering a New Social World. Validity strategies were used to ensure scientific rigour and credibility of the research findings. The findings, including significant contributions of the study, are discussed in relation to the extant literature. Strengths and limitations of the study as well as implications for psychologists, educators, and policy development are addressed.
My study aimed to explain how caregivers of school-aged children with FASD manage their children’s schooling. Symbolic interactionism served as the guiding theoretical perspective. I used a Glaserian approach to grounded theory to develop a substantive theory: intertwining to fit in.I collected data through interviews, participant observation, and document analysis. I completed 30 in-depth interviews and 25 hours of participant observation with children’s caregivers between February 2009 and November 2009. I used constant comparative analysis to construct my substantive theory. Intertwining to fit in is a dynamic cycle caregivers of elementary school-aged children with FASD use to resolve their main concerns, which are preventing their children from failing academically and in social interactions and preventing themselves from being regarded as “bad” parents. To intertwine to fit in parents used two strategies, orchestrating schooling and keeping up appearances, while they were regulating the relationships with their children. Caregivers used the strategies to try to achieve academic and social success for their children and to be regarded as “good” parents. Using the strategies successfully reduced the amount of time parents spent regulating their relationships with their children and permitted children more independence. Conditions caregivers encountered, for example key workers, influenced how caregivers used the strategies and related tactics. Using the strategies resulted in caregivers encountering two critical junctures: hitting rock bottom and reaching islands of calm. When hitting rock bottom neither of the strategies were working, children were not succeeding, and caregivers were focused on regulating relationships with their children. Reaching islands of calm occurred when strategies were successful and parents could invest more time in themselves. During critical junctures, caregivers re-engaged with the school system. Short-term outcomes associated with critical junctures affected the long-term outcomes caregivers were trying to achieve. “Intertwining to fit in,” contributes to literature on attachment and parenting and extends explanations about caregivers’ advocacy for their children. The substantive theory has implications for school psychology practice, training, and research, as well as school personnel. The theory is also important in illuminating approaches to managing for the caregivers of school-aged children with FASD.
The purpose of the present study was to gain an understanding of adolescent perspectives of seeking and receiving support at school for significant mental health challenges. A review of the literature substantiates that adolescent mental health problems require the attention of researchers, policy makers, and professionals. Currently many adolescents require mental health supports, but do not receive them. The school has been identified as an important access point where mental health supports can be integrated; this has led to the development of many frameworks and programs to allow the school to serve this role. The concept of socially valid research and practice emphasizes the need to determine the acceptability and perceived helpfulness of services by eliciting consumer perspectives. However, there remains a great deal of uncertainty regarding how to most appropriately assess consumer satisfaction for the range of mental health supports. A qualitative approach to inquiry that employs in-depth interviews can address this uncertainty by asking open-ended questions; this approach provides the potential to gain important perspectives that may not be elicited by surveys or other methods of inquiry. Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was the methodological approach used to explore the meaning of adolescents’ experiences seeking and receiving support at school for significant mental health concerns. Four students in Grades 11 and 12 participated in in-depth, semi-structured interviews about their experiences of support. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, and analyzed following Smith and colleagues (2009) step-by-step approach for beginning IPA analysts. Three broad themes, seven related sub-themes, and two interwoven themes were identified. Participants discussed both formal and informal experiences of school supports related to supportive relationships, a flexible learning environment, and the school’s potential role as a support system. Interwoven throughout these categories were the guiding values of acknowledging students as individuals, and meeting students where they are at when supporting them at school. Scientific rigor of exploration was ensured through debriefing, member checking, an external audit, and researcher reflexivity. The results are discussed in relation to extant literature, implications for practice, and recommendations for future research.
Interpersonal problems such as harassment, bullying, and sexual abuse by both peers and adults are becoming increasingly recognized as a problem among children and youth in schools, and are also gaining attention in sports. With an increase in awareness comes concerted educational efforts to address interpersonal problems, including prevention programs targeting adults in schools and in the community. Respect in Sport (RiS) is an online, preventative education program for coaches designed to create safe and healthy sport environments for participants by targeting key areas that are paramount to prevention and intervention in bullying, abuse, neglect, and harassment in sports. The purpose of the current study was to examine the extent to which coaches perceived the Respect in Sport program to have impacted their knowledge and practice in these areas. Participants included coaches from Alberta Gymnastics, Ontario Gymnastics, and Sport Manitoba who completed the RiS training in the last three years. A total of 1,091 participants, representing 51 different sports, were asked to complete a self-report survey regarding their perceptions of the impact of RiS on their coaching practice. Results from this study revealed that an overwhelming percentage of participants perceived the Respect in Sport program to have enhanced their knowledge and practice in key areas of the program’s objectives. Further examination of results across type and level of sports, age and sex of coaches and athletes, and time at which coaches were certified in Respect in Sport revealed few significant differences, and the effect sizes were small. The results of this study have implications for further program development, implementation, and ongoing systematic evaluation. With the heightened demand for implementing and evaluating programs that are evidence-based, the results of this study also have implications for school psychologists working in schools and in the community.