DELMAR — Bethlehem Opportunities Unlimited will host another tips and strategies presentation for parents this week, only virtually.
The local not-for-profit organization that promotes prevention education will present a “Talking with Your Teen” focused on helping parents and children cope with the stress and anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Registration is due by today, Wednesday, Nov. 18. The presentation will run through a Zoom conference chat the following day on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 7 p.m.
Dr. Jennifer Smitkin, a school psychologist and founder of Psychology Wellness Practice, PLLC, will speak during the free presentation. Smitkin specializes in providing psychological and psycho-educational evaluations for children and adolescents, as well as adults.
The presentation is to come just a week following National School Psychology Week, a time in which the area’s largest teacher’s union impressed the increased need for school psychologists this school year.
“Life is nowhere near ‘normal’ anymore. The pandemic has definitely caused an increase in anxiety and depression,” said Kelly Caci, a member of New York State United Teachers’ Health Care Professionals Council. She added how students struggle navigating with the independence required of them during online learning. “The stress during the pandemic is clearly leading to an increase in substance use leading to addiction and overdose,” said Caci.
NYSUT said school psychologists’ roles have expanded as students struggle with isolation, family addiction issues, an increase in poverty and separation from classroom friends.
“School psychologists fill a number of roles within a school,” said Beth Rizzi, president of the 900-member New York Association of School Psychologists. “We provide both mandated and non-mandated counseling services, crisis intervention, teacher consultation, assessment for eligibility of special education, data collection to assist in decision-making, intervention and instructional support, collaboration with families, and collaboration with colleagues.”
To help students cope, Rizzi said she promotes mindfulness practices, meditation, breathing practice and following a routine — depending on the student’s needs and stressors.
“Each situation has its own unique challenges,” Rizzi said. “I have worked with students over the phone rather than utilizing Google meet. Additionally, I try to ensure that the student has relative privacy to access their services. It is so important to ensure that the student trusts that you have their best interests at heart.”
Smitkin earned her Doctoral degree in School Psychology at the University at Albany, State University of New York in 2007. Prior to that, she received a Master’s of Science degree in Educational Psychology and Statistics, and a Certificate of Advanced Study in School Psychology, both from the University at Albany, State University of New York. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Siena College in Loudonville with a concentration in Education.
Prior to Psychology Wellness Practice, PLLC, Smitkin worked as a School Psychologist in the state public school system. She served as an adjunct professor at Hudson Valley Community College, and taught graduate courses at The University at Albany. Smitkin began practicing privately in 2008. She has presented and published research related to students with emotional and behavioral disorders and sexualized behavior of students with developmental disabilities.
Smitkin utilizes a team approach to treatment for school-age children and adolescents, providing consultative services to schools and parenting education for families. Parent consultation services are offered following the evaluation process to assist in the implementation of recommendations proposed. Specific expertise in the process of special education and 504 Accommodation planning is highlighted. Her practice is unique in its focus on health and wellness for clients of all ages, targeting behavioral health symptoms from a functional perspective.