School Psychologists Group Prepares Members as Refugee Students Come to U.S.

The National Association of School Psychologists is making sure its members are ready to handle a potential influx of refugee students.

As the United States prepares to bring in refugee families, schools must be ready to welcome and serve the children who will join their communities. The National Association of School Psychologists is ready to help its members through it.

While NASP members haven’t yet been seeking help for handling an influx of refugee students into schools, the association knows this might soon be a need and is already preparing resources for school psychologists to better work with refugee children, according to NASP’s Director of Communications Katherine Cowan.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris last month, NASP released some new resources regarding refugee children, as well as tips for how to discuss traumatic events with children, which were similar to resources developed following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. Most of the existing resources discussing refugee students are limited to shorter articles or generally cover immigrant children.

“We decided that it was pretty important that we also develop something specific to refugee children and that we have some voice on that, and so that’s why we developed that particular resource at that particular time,” Cowan said.

Currently, two school psychologists are working with NASP’s multicultural affairs committee to develop more in-depth materials specific to refugee students and families from certain countries. The articles will cover “if someone is coming in from Syria, what are some of the cultural specifics about being Syrian versus being from Afghanistan or being Iraqi, what are the differences in the traumas they may have experienced as a result of their particular journey to the United States and getting out of Syria,” she said.

NASP has four school psychologists on staff who help determine what type of materials are needed. Cowan expects the association to create more resources on refugee children for members, such as a webinar or longer form articles, once the U.S. officially accepts refugee families. Though some material is for members only, NASP makes sure there are also resources available directly to teachers, parents, and national and state leaders.

In the midst of the global refugee crisis, NASP is also equipping its members to inform school leaders, teachers, and staff on what issues are facing refugee children and how to be watching that these kids are not further victimized or bullied, Cowan noted. NASP generally promotes this type of advocacy on behalf of students who are immigrants, Muslim American citizens, or of various ethnic backgrounds.

“It isn’t just the need for practice-oriented materials, but it is that advocacy and that tone setting, and that this is the responsibility of the schools,” Cowan said. “There’s a way to do this right, and we are here to help do that. It’s beholden on us to make sure we understand the trauma effects on these kids and to safeguard them against any rejection or harassment or isolation.”

Two Syrian boys sitting with other refugees after arriving in Croatia from Serbia. (iStock Editorial/Thinkstock)

Alex Beall

By Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. MORE

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