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Provider Spotlight: Erin D., Ed.S., NCSP

For Clinicians

, By Dana Bell

Introduction

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. After I graduated high school in 2000, I moved to Kentucky where I went to college at Kentucky State, and then University of Kentucky. I moved back home to Cleveland in 2008. I’m married. I have two children of my own and two stepchildren, who are 17 12, 10 and five. They’re all actively involved in sports and they have their school activities and so that takes up a lot of my time.

This is a second career for me. I got my license in social work. After I did my undergraduate work, I got my MSW. I thought I wanted to be a social worker. I’d had a couple different jobs and then I accidentally found out about school psychology. That was right around the time that I was wanting to move back home to Cleveland and so I had applied for the program. I thought school psychology sounded like a career that I would really enjoy. It checked all the boxes and you get your summers off so I thought it sounded amazing. I got accepted, moved back home in 2008, and did the program for school psychology at Kent State University.

What inspired you to become a school psychologist?

Working with kids was very interesting. That was what I wanted to do anyways, but then also as I was learning about school psychology, I came to find out that I’m not tied only to a school district. I could work in multiple other settings and so that was appealing to me as well. Even though this is my eighth year as a school psychologist and I’ve only ever worked in schools, at the time it was appealing to me that if I got bored in the school district or a traditional brick and mortar school, there were other options like hospitals or private practice that I could do also.

What made you want to be a teletherapist with PL?

I was interested in expanding my practice from the traditional school setting. I liked the idea of working with more schools and families outside of where I live. Teletherapy gives me a different demographic of people and families to work with. I have worked in the same school district for the past eight years and so I typically see the same demographic of kids and parents and this is opening me up to other groups of people and populations.

The two school districts I’m assigned to with PresenceLearning are both homeschool programs, which I’ve had no experience with other than this. So in addition to it being West Coast, it’s also homeschool programs so I’m working with the parents and not necessarily with a school employee who’s helping me with assessments. It’s always the parent that I am communicating with the most and I’m working with the child in their home so it’s different. It’s been fun learning how to do that.

How did you connect with PL?

I work in the city of Cleveland and Cleveland Metropolitan School District as my day job. A few years ago at NASP, PresenceLearning had a table set up and I stopped by and learned about teletherapy. I thought “Well, this is kind of cool.” I felt like it would push me outside of my box a little bit and make me learn how to do this job in a different way while also giving me the opportunity to make some extra income. So that is what intrigued me about it but I waited, about a year and a half before I actually applied, and then I ended up getting hired right when everything was shutting down. I actually did my interview in my basement virtually while my kids were doing school upstairs because our schools closed here In March, and it was all right around the same time. I actually didn’t get an assignment last school year because I was hired toward the end of the school year and then everything was very uncertain at that time.

What do you enjoy about being a provider with PL?

I enjoy the flexibility of my schedule. I enjoy getting to pick and choose which days that I want to dedicate as PresenceLearning days. It’s been great working with homeschool programs because they tend to start a little later so they like to do their testing at one or two in the afternoon and I know that that wouldn’t have been an option if I was in a brick and mortar school. They probably would have wanted to have the kids tested earlier in the day. So that’s worked out nicely.

I just really enjoy getting to meet different families and children. It’s challenging doing it virtually, and I think I needed a challenge at this point, while still being able to keep the stability of my current brick and mortar district. Flexibility is important because I can fit this in with the flexible schedule and I’m still able to do everything that I need to do for my kids.

And here is something else that has been appealing for me—in my brick and mortar schools, I am responsible for a lot more being a case manager. I like the idea that I can really just focus on assessment and just do that portion of it, and submit my information for that, and not have to do all of the other organizational things.
What were you most surprised about when you made the transition to be a teletherapist?
I was surprised by how many assessments were available for virtual administration. I typically use the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-4) and the Woodcock-Johnson tests with my one district. In my other district they just tell me what I’m going to give so I use the Woodcock-Johnson cognitive and Woodcock-Johnson achievement a lot with them. But in my
own practice, I use the Woodcock-Johnson achievement very frequently so that was a very natural transition. I wasn’t as familiar with the Woodcock-Johnson cognitive just because I don’t typically give it as often in my practice so I had to re-teach myself how to give that assessment. It’s been challenging, like I said, but in a good way.

I think that the instructional overlays are great because it’s just like having the book right in front of you. You can put those overlays on when you need them to read the instructions and take them right off. I think it’s very user friendly. It definitely is. There have been a couple times when I’ve been in an actual assessment and I realize, “Oh shoot, I wanted to give this sub test but I don’t have it in my library yet!” Just being able to navigate to get it added really quickly is very easy. So, yes, I’ve been very surprised with how fluid everything is.

Could you walk us through your daily routine? A “day in the life of a PL therapist” if you will?

I work at a brick-and-mortar school in my hometown and do PL assessments in the evening. Since I am assigned to West Coast schools, it is earlier in the day for them. I typically do 2–4 assessments in a week but there are some weeks when I don’t have any. My eligibility meetings also tend to come in waves where there are heavier weeks/months than others.

Typically the first part of my day is working in my brick-and-mortar school, and generally parents like the assessments at 12 noon or after—that’s three o’clock for me and by that time I’ve picked my kids up from school and I’m at home. Then I start the second half of my day. When I’m working like that where I’ve already worked a full day and I’m coming home to do this, I typically would only do like two assessments at max, and I usually keep them to about an hour, more so for the kids. I’ve maybe assessed a kid for an hour and a half. And I can go longer but it’s a lot for children, even teenagers, so typically I’ll keep their assessments to around an hour, or an hour and 15. For some of the kids I’ve even had to do 30 minutes and we’ve had to do three or four sessions just to get it all done, but I’d rather do that and feel more confident in my results than push a child to work for two hours because they’re not really giving me their best. So I would do one or two assessments, and then I don’t typically look at it again that evening because I’ve either got to go to practice or I’ve got to make dinner. My kids are in track and gymnastics and basketball and softball.

I flip into Mom mode around six o’clock so there’s a little window of time, not every day, when I am doing PL assessments. They also tend to come in waves, which is very similar to my brick-and-mortar school—everything comes in big waves of work and then there’s more downtime. And that’s exactly what I experienced this year. I don’t know if that’s what it’s always like since this is my first year but I had a very quiet beginning of the year. I got my first assignment in November, and then one or two assessments trickled in, and then it was just like “boom boom boom” every week. This week I have three new referrals. Then I got another referral and before I could even get started on one I was getting another so there were months when it was very heavy and there was maybe three days a week when I was doing PL. And then there were some other months where there were weeks where I didn’t have to do any so it bounced around in that way.

I need to do better with my eating and taking care of myself. I try to work out in the morning before my first job so that’s my me-time and my therapy for myself.

How has the PL online platform enabled you to help your students and the schools you serve in new ways?

I have learned a lot about tele-assessment and it has broadened my practice. I also feel that having tele-assessment as an option is helpful for people who live in remote areas as well as those who are home-schooled. Additionally, with the pandemic, a lot of schools and doctors’ offices moved to tele-health so I feel like I joined the PL team at a great time.

Can you tell us a little about how you collaborate with teachers and other school staff members?

I mostly use email but have reached out to parents by phone if they are not responsive through email. For one school I typically just do the assessments and attend the eligibility meetings. For my other school, I take more of a traditional school psychologist role in that I attend planning/consent meetings, send consent forms for signatures, complete eligibility forms, etc.

How do you build trust and rapport with parents?

I am usually introduced to the family by the school. After that I work with the family to schedule testing and get them the needed test equipment. I have not had difficulty developing rapport with parents but I have with some of the students. Some of my students have a really hard time testing, so for them just giving them the time they need, breaking the testing up across multiple days, and shortening the time I have them work is helpful.

What tips do you have for other providers getting started with telepractice?

So for me, it felt like starting a new job. Even though I’ve done this job for several years, it felt like I was learning a new job. I would recommend being patient with yourself, and also to take advantage of all the resources that are on PresenceLearning because there are so many resources in the Help Center. I have really used that to ask a question and find what I need from there. So that would be my advice to take your time, be patient with yourself.

I did a couple of the Clinical Workshops right when I started and those were very helpful. That would also be another tip—take advantage of those.

I was also surprised by how nice everyone is and helpful, and how well thought out the resources are—very user friendly and they really just hit any question, any topic that you may have a question about. Either somebody already asked that question and that’s on there or there’s an article that you can read about it. I think it’s just awesome that all these resources exist—you can go back to it months later if you need a refresher.

I think that PresenceLearning has just done an amazing job with the resources.Any time I felt overwhelmed, there was always somebody I could reach out to to ask a question or some article I could read or a video to watch. Everything is in multiple forms, which I found very helpful.

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