Reflect the Past, Explore the Present, Invent the Future

The school psychologist is Ms. Katelyn McDonald. Ms. McDonald is at Bryant Ranch on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. She can be reached by phone at 714-986-7120 ext. 48016, or by email at 

This web page is meant to be an overview and is by no means a comprehensive guide to all services.

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Common Questions about School Psychology

1. What is the role of the school psychologist at Bryant Ranch?

The primary role of the school psychologist at Bryant Ranch is to oversee the mental health of the students and staff at the school. The school psychologist is responsible for the evaluation of children with special needs, the identification of any child with a suspected disability, program planning for children with special needs, behavioral interventions, and the oversight of special education compliance. School psychologists also provide crisis counseling for students in need, referral to private therapists, and consultation to parents and teachers on childhood developmental issues as well as behavioral concerns. The school psychologist is a member of the BEST (student study) and the Assessment Teams. If and when time permits, classroom guidance and small group therapy will be initiated to help with the facilitation of appropriate school-related social skills (friendship groups, frustration/anger management, etc.)

2. What should I do if I think my child might have a disability?

The first thing is to talk to your child's teacher. The teacher has a great deal of information on your child's academic strengths and weaknesses. If you and the teacher feel your child needs it, the teacher can refer the student to the BEST team. This is the schoolwide intervention team. BEST is comprised of general education teachers, administration, the Resource Specialist, Speech and Language Specialist, and School Psychologist. This team will review the case and develop intervention strategies. If it is necessary, the team will recommend assessment to determine if special education or 504 Plan services are necessary.

3. What is the benefit of going through the intervention (BEST) team? Why not just assess?

If as a parent, you are at a place where you think your child may need special education, you need intervention now, not weeks from now. The intervention team will design an intervention plan to meet your child's specific needs that will be implemented immediately. Once an assessment plan is signed, the Assessment Team has 60 days (consecutive days) to complete the assessment, write the report and meet with the findings and recommendations. If your child is not found to have a handicap, the intervention team will continue to monitor and change the intervention strategies. The vast majority of students who struggle academically are not handicapped, and do not qualify for special education. Special Education is for students who cannot learn from the traditional general education methods, not those who learn at a slower pace.

4. What is Special Education?

Special Education means specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique need of a child with a disability, including instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals/institutions, in other settings and instruction in physical education (20 U.S.C. Section 1401[22]).

Special Education is a catchall phrase for a range of services available for students who are identified as handicapped or disabled. The state of California recognizes 13 handicapping conditions. They are:

  • Intellectually Disabled
  • Hard of Hearing
  • Deaf
  • Speech or Language Impaired (includes articulation, voice, fluency, expressive language, receptive language, morphology, syntax, pragmatics, and associated with hearing loss)
  • Visually Impaired
  • Emotionally Disturbed
  • Orthopedically Impaired
  • Other Health Impaired
  • Specific Learning Disability
  • Deaf-Blind
  • Multihandicapped
  • Autism (or Autistic-like Behaviors)
  • Traumatic Brain Injury

Related services (if eligible for Special Education) include:

  • Speech-language pathology and audiology services
  • Psychological services
  • Physical and Occupational therapy, Social work services
  • Counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling
  • Orientation and mobility services
  • Medical services for diagnostic and evaluation purposes only

5. How does a child qualify for Special Education services?

The child has to be assessed by the school Assessment Team. This team is comprised of two or more specialists (for example, speech and language, resource, vision or hearing specialist, occupational therapist, and psychologist). Who assesses a child depends on what the suspected disability is. At a minimum, the psychologist and the resource specialist will conduct the assessment. The assessment will generally cover the following areas:

  • Academic achievement
  • Social/Adaptive Behavior
  • Psychomotor development
  • Communication Development (if needed)
  • Cognitive Development
  • Health
  • Vocational/Prevocational development (if needed)
  • Observation of educational performance
  • Review of records and other existing evaluation information
  • Results of recent assessments including any available independent evaluations

Each handicapping condition has specific diagnostic criteria that must be met. This criterion is based on Educational Code (private psychologists do not have to follow the same criterion). An overview of the criteria is provided in the section "Eligibility Criteria".

Once the assessment is complete, the assessment team meets with parents, teacher, and administration (an IEP team) to present the results of the assessment and eligibility for special education is determined.

Some Interesting Statistics

In the 2002-2003 school year, a total of 65 students at Bryant Ranch were assessed for special education services (45 students were assessed the previous year). Of these, 18 were already in Special Education and required additional evaluation, or a three-year review. The BEST team referrals resulted in 55% qualifying for special education or the 504 Program. Parent requests that did not go through the BEST team interventions resulted in 3% qualifying for special education or the 504 Program. You do not "rule out" a disability; you rule it in, when all traditional educational methodologies do not work.

6. How is the assessment conducted?

The specialists assessing your child will pull them out-of-class to do the assessment. In general, a full psycho- educational assessment will take anywhere between 4-10 hours of out of class time (depending on the assessment plan and the type of handicap being evaluated). The children are generally pulled for 30 to 90 minutes at a time depending on age. We cannot pull children from PE or Music, as these classes are only held twice a week and cannot be made up. The pullouts will occur when the specialist has assessment time (the RSP teacher and Speech and Language Specialist also teach during the day). We try not to pull out of direct instruction, but work with the classroom teacher to minimize the critical information missed. We do not assess after school. Special Education is not a tutoring service. It is designed to teach children who cannot learn with the traditional methodologies, due to a specific handicap.

7. What is a 504 Plan?

Section 504 is a section of the rehabilitation act of 1973, which applies to persons with disabilities. Basically, it is a civil right act, which prohibits public schools and other organizations, which receive federal funds, from denying handicapped students equality of educational participation and benefit.

8. How is a 504 Plan different from Special Education?

All children who are identified as disabled under the Individuals With Disabilities Education act (IDEA) are also considered to be disabled and, therefore, protected under Section 504. However, not all children identified as disabled pursuant to the definitions of Section 504 are disabled under IDEA. Under Section 504 the disability need not have any effect on the student's ability to learn, so long as it "substantially limits" some major life activity which may impede the student's ability to access learning. Moreover, these children typically do not require special education instruction and related services but do require specific modifications and accommodations in the regular classroom setting.

9. Who is an "individual with a disability"?

A person who: Has a physical or mental impairment, which substantially limits a major life activity; Has a record or history of such an impairment; is regarded as having such impairment.

10. What are considered major life activities?

Major life activities include seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, learning, working, caring for oneself, and performing manual tasks.

11. What are some examples of a disabling condition?

All conditions which entitle a student to receive special education pursuant to the eligibility definitions of the IDEA (e.g., mental retardation, learning disabilities, emotional disturbance), cancer, diabetes, asthma, physical disabilities, AIDS, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, etc., so long as they substantially limit a major life activity.

12. What does "substantially limit" refer to?

It is generally accepted that without modifications and/or interventions the student would not be afforded an equal opportunity to an appropriate education. A "substantial limitation," therefore, serves as a barrier preventing equal access to a major life activity. For example, if the ADHD student's impulsive behaviors result in an inability to participate in a classroom instructional activity without specific modifications, the impulsive disorder is a barrier to equal opportunity and special accommodations must be applied to enable him/her to remain in the regular classroom.

13. What is the referral process for Section 504?

The referral process is the same as for special education. Talk to the teacher first. Go to the intervention (BEST) team. The evaluation procedure for 504 is not as difficult and does not take as much time as a special education evaluation.

Some General Characteristics of Learning Disabled, Slow Learners and Unmotivated Students

(This was taken from the California Association of Resource Specialists newsletter)

Slow Learners:

  • Cognitive Ability: Achievement is commensurate with potential. Pupil is deficient in academic areas, but about equal across all areas.
  • Progress: Even with additional assistance, progress is slow. Probably will make less than one years progress per year regardless of placement in regular or special class.
  • Productivity: In a lesson or task involving many concepts, may focus on only one. May need assistance with words or directions. May require graphic explanation. May have just begun a task when time is called. May be unable to switch from task to task.
  • Health: May have mild delay in developmental milestones.
  • Peer Interaction: Will often be a follower in peer group.
  • Language: similar to that of Learning Disabled child but may be at a lesser degree. Takes longer to learn concept but will usually retain it once learned.

Unmotivated Students

  • Cognitive Ability: Achievement is usually far below potential, but fairly even across most areas. A particular interest may be evident.
  • Progress: When attends, often learns new material with ease. May be the first person finished with a task. May be receiving low grades, but standardized achievement tests indicate good progress (underachiever).
  • Productivity: May understand directions be able to read some of the words, yet rarely completes task. Often appears disinterested.
  • Health: Generally good.
  • Peer Interaction: May be rejected due to antisocial tendencies, or accepted as a leader. This leadership may be negative.
  • Language: Usually language adequate, but fails to apply skills consistently in the classroom.

Special Education: Learning Disabled

  • Cognitive Ability: Achievement is often far below potential in some areas. Usually has a very uneven learning profile.
  • Progress: May show remarkable progress in some areas when tasks are analyzed, taught sequentially, and include higher extent of teacher pupil
    interaction. Skills may jump 1-2 years in one year.
  • Productivity: Verbal directions may be too complex. May be unable to read written directions. May want to do task, be embarrassed about lack of skill, and not be able to concentrate. May not begin task without assistance. Often unable to switch from task to task.
  • Health: My have a history of risk infancy, ear infections/hearing problems, sleep/eating disturbances, inconsistence and family incidence of learning disability.
  • Peer Interaction: May have frequent fights or arguments. Others may complain of clumsiness. May be a class isolate. May play wit younger peers. Occasionally pupils will be socially adequate.
  • Language: Auditory processing usually at low skill level. Vocabulary and word finding skills usually delayed. Sentences are simplified and lack complexity. Commonly cannot transfer skills learned in the classroom into everyday usage.

Eligibility Conditions

Hearing Impairment (CCR 3030(a))
A pupil has a hearing impairment, whether permanent or fluctuating, which impairs the processing of linguistic information through hearing, even with amplification and which adversely affects educational performance. Processing linguistic information includes speech and language reception and speech and language discrimination (C.C.R. 3030(a)).

Hearing and Visual Impairment (CCR 3030(b))
A pupil has concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes severe communication, developmental and educational problems.

Speech and Language Impairment (CCR3030(c)
A pupil has a language or speech disorder as defined in Section 56333 of the Education Code, and it is determined that the pupil's disorder meets one or more of the following criteria:

EC56333: A pupil shall be assessed as having a language or speech disorder which makes him or her eligible for special education and related services when he or she demonstrates difficulty understanding or using spoken language to such an extent that it adversely affects his or her educational performance and cannot be corrected without special education and related services, assessment shall be conducted by a language, speech and hearing specialist, who determines that such a difficulty results from any of the following disorders:

Articulation disorder
Reduced intelligibility or an inability to use the speech mechanism which significantly interferes with communication and attracts adverse attention:

A pupil does not meet the criteria for an articulation disorder if the sole assessed disability is an abnormal swallowing pattern.

Abnormal voice
A pupil has an abnormal voice which is characterized by persistent, defective voice quality, pitch or loudness.

Fluency disorders
A pupil has a fluency disorder when the flow of verbal expression including rate and rhythm adversely affects communication between the pupil and listener.

Language disorder
The pupil has an expressive or receptive language disorder when he or she meets on of the following criteria:

1. The pupil scores at least 1.5 standard deviations below the mean or the score is below the 7th percentile for his or her chronological age or developmental level on two or more standardized tests in one or more of the following areas of language development: morphology, syntax, semantics, or pragmatics. When standardized tests are considered to be invalid for the specific pupil, the expected language performance level shall be determined by alternative means as specified on the assessment plan,


2. The pupil scores at least 1.5 standard deviations below the mean or the score is below the 7th percentile for his or her chronological age or developmental level on two or more standardized tests in one or more of the following areas of language development: morphology, syntax, semantics, or pragmatics, AND displays inappropriate or inadequate usage of expressive or receptive language as measured by a representative spontaneous or elicited Language sample of a minimum of fifty utterances. The language sample must be recorded or transcribed and analyzed and the results included in the assessment report. If the pupil is unable to produce this sample, the language speech/hearing specialist shall document why a 50 word utterance sample was not obtainable and the contexts in which attempts were made to elicit the sample when standardized tests are considered to be invalid for the specific pupil, the expected language performance level shall be determined by alternative means, as specified in the assessment plan.

Visual Impairment (CCR3030(d))
A pupil has a visual impairment that, even with correction, adversely affects a pupil's educational performance. The term includes both partially seeing and blind children.

Orthopedic Impairment (CCR3030(e))
A pupil has a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects the pupil's educational performance. Such orthopedic impairments include impairments caused by congenital anomaly, impairments caused by disease and impairments from other causes.

Other Health Impairment (CCR3030(f))
Other Health Impaired (OHI) means having limited strength, vitality, or alertness due to chronic or acute health problems, including by not limited to a heart condition, cancer, leukemia, rheumatic fever, chronic kidney disease/nephritis, cystic fibrosis, severe asthma, epilepsy, lead poisoning, and hematological disorders such as sickle cell anemia and hemophilia, or diabetes, which adversely affects a pupil's educational performance. Such physical disabilities shall not be temporary in nature. Temporary physical disability means a disability incurred while the student was a regular education student and which, at the termination of the temporary physical disability, the student can, without special intervention, reasonably be expected to return to the regular education class. Autistic Like Behaviors (CCR3030(g)):
A pupil exhibits any combination of the following autistic-like behaviors, to include but not limited to:

  1. An inability to use oral language for appropriate communication.
  2. A history of extreme withdrawal or relating to people inappropriately and continued impairment in social interaction from infancy through early childhood.
  3. an obsession to maintain sameness.
  4. Extreme preoccupation with objects or inappropriate use of objects or both.
  5. Extreme resistance to controls.
  6. Displays peculiar motoric mannerisms and motility patterns.
  7. Self-stimulating, ritualistic behavior.

Mental Retardation (CCR3030(h)):
A pupil has significantly below average general intellectual functioning existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period which adversely affect a pupil's educational performance.

Emotional Disturbance (CCR3030(i)):
Because of an emotional disturbance a pupil exhibits one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree which adversely affect educational performance.

An inability to learn which cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.

An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.

Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances exhibited in several situations.

A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

Specific Learning Disability(CCR3030(j)):
Specific Learning Disability (SLD) means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological process involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations and results in a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement in one or more of the following academic areas:

  • Oral expression
  • Listening comprehension
  • Written expression
  • Basic reading skills
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Mathematics calculation
  • Mathematics reasoning

Basic psychological processes include attention, visual processing, auditory processing, sensory-motor skills, and cognitive abilities including association, conceptualization and expression

Multiple Disabilities
Multiple-handicapped means concomitant impairments (such as intellectually disabled-blind, intellectually disabled-orthopedically impaired, etc.) the combination of which causes such severe educational problems that they cannot be accommodated in special education program solely for one of the impairments. The term does not include deaf-blind children.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Traumatic Brain Injury means an injury to the brain caused by an external physical force or by an internal occurrence such as stroke or aneurysm, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial maladjustment that adversely affects educational performance. The term includes open or closed head injuries resulting in mild, moderate, or severe impairments in one or more areas, including cognition, language, memory, attention, reasoning, abstract thinking, judgment, problem-solving, sensory, perceptual and motor abilities, psychosocial behavior, physical functions, information processing and speech. The term does not include brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or brain injuries induced by birth trauma.

This web page is meant to be an overview and is by no means a comprehensive guide to all services.