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Book outlines using ecological factors in consultation, addressing problems in schools

Wed, 04/30/2014

LAWRENCE — Two University of Kansas researchers have written a book that explains a new model of consultation for professionals working in schools, which involves a professional consultant, such as a school psychologist, social worker or counselor, working with a teacher or parent on behalf of a child in need of help.

In this new book, researchers take a major step forward by introducing a new model that takes into account ecological influences as well as more traditional social, behavioral and personality factors in an attempt to help adults better understand and address behavioral and academic problems of children.

Steven W. Lee, professor and chair of the Department of Psychology and Research in Education, and Christopher R. Niileksela, lecturer in the department, have authored “Ecobehavioral Consultation in Schools: Theory and Practice for School Psychologists, Special Educators and School Counselors.” The book is a practical companion for anyone who works with parents and teachers to help address behavioral and academic problems students have in school. It contains both an examination of ecobehavioral theory and concrete examples of ways it can be put to use in schools.

“We need to think of the bigger picture in addition to focusing on the immediate aspects of the problem,” Lee said. “We know that things like divorce, changing schools, bullies and other types of ecological factors that students deal with affect how a child does in school. In this book we discuss ways a consultant, school psychologist or anyone who works with parents and teachers can understand and include these factors in planning for interventions to help students.”

Lee and Niileksela use a stream analogy to illustrate the theory. The stream represents all of the ecological, social, behavioral, physiological and emotional factors that affect people on a minute-to-minute basis. As a student moves through the school day, these factors may influence how the student will react to immediate stimuli, such as peers or the curricula. In ecobehavioral consultation, the goal is to help the consultant better understand the influence all of these factors may have on a student’s behavior, with an ultimate goal of helping the teacher or parents develop a more complete intervention plan.

 “This book isn’t the end-all on this topic, but it is a way to begin to better understand these factors in order to help students,” Lee said.

The book contains several case studies in which ecobehavioral consultation is used in schools and translates how research on ideas included in the book can be applied in practice. The book offers clear principles for the consultant by offering more than 20 forms school personnel can use in their own consultation practice and more than 60 interventions available for download on the book’s website.

While the goal of ecobehavioral consultation is to help students confront behavioral and academic challenges, it is also an aid to teachers. As educators better understand how ecological factors can contribute to potential problems, they can more effectively respond to similar situations in the future, the authors said. The book can also be helpful for consultants in training, as training programs do not always adequately prepare future school professionals on methods to address or understand ecological factors that affect behavior problems. The authors also share how interventions can be adjusted for multicultural settings and individualized for different students.

“We wanted the book to provide clear guidelines to implement ecobehavioral consultation with lots of examples,” Niileksela said. “It shares what specific questions school professionals can ask to get the information they need and how to integrate theory into addressing problems.”



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