I am employed as a school psychologist within the Shelby County School District in Memphis, Tennessee. I currently serve two schools, one K-8 and one high school. I wear various hats within the school environment. I specialize in assessment, intervention and services for children with developmental disabilities, particularly autism. The Center for Disease Control now reports that one in 68 children are diagnosed with autism, and I am working diligently to see that children receive early identification and evidenced-based interventions and practices.
In addition to autism assessment, I frequently assess children for the CLUE program (Shelby County’s gifted program), as well as assess children for learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, emotional disturbance and ADHD. I work closely with the special education departments at my schools to help develop individualized education plans. I also work with families to ensure that children receive the most appropriate services given their disability.
In addition, I am fortunate enough to work with the private school team here in Shelby County. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act includes the "child find" mandate. "Child find" requires all school districts to identify, locate and evaluate all children with disabilities, regardless of the severity of their disabilities. This obligation to identify all children who may need special education services exists even if the school is not providing special education services to the child. Therefore, I also assess children in the private schools throughout Shelby County that we identify through the child find mandate. Although children in the private schools are not entitled to an IEP, they do receive a service plan written to address their needs within the private school setting.
In addition to assessment and intervention, I also take every opportunity to present at conferences and lead trainings. I am currently one of two individuals who train school psychologists in our district on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, second edition and topics regarding positive behavioral interventions and supports. Lastly, the school district, as well as the entire state of Tennessee, has changed from the discrepancy model to the response to intervention model to identify children with specific learning disabilities. I am working closely with my schools as we all make this new transition.
UTM undoubtedly provided me with a solid foundation upon which to build in graduate school. One of the most influential classes I took while at UTM was an applied behavior analysis class with Dr. Gary Brown. This class helped me realize I wanted to work with children with autism… and how rewarding that has been! This class was a great introduction to managing observation data and using it to make data-based decisions. Additionally, when I began graduate school at Mississippi State (earning a master's degree in clinical psychology), I noticed that my training at UTM put me ahead of my classmates. I was also very fortunate to work with Dr. Buckelew on various research projects and even presented at a several conferences. Lastly, I found that the experimental classes with Dr. Angie MacKewn provided me not only with a solid foundation in data analysis, but also helped me significantly in graduate school.
While I was at UTM, I also had fun with various extracurricular activities. I was a member of Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity and was president my last year on campus. I was also involved in various Vanguard Theatre productions and received a minor in music playing the French horn. I also worked at the library at the circulation desk!
My major piece of advice to future students is to take advantage of everything the program has to offer. Ask questions! The faculty is comprised of caring, knowledgeable practitioners who have a wealth of knowledge and are waiting to share it with you! If you take the time to listen, learn and go above and beyond expectations, you will be exceptionally prepared for graduate school in various psychology programs. I am constantly running into those that graduated from UTM with a psychology degree at conferences, and we all reminisce about our time at UTM and wouldn't trade it for the world. I am a proud graduate from the psychology program at UTM.