Students to have access to counselors, SEL services on first day of school

Counselor and student

By Eddie Villa

On the first day of school, students will be welcomed back with friendly counselors at their school. Austin ISD’s goal is to have counselors visible so students know who to talk to as they transition back to on-campus learning.

Psychologists have warned about the emotional and psychological toll living under a pandemic for more than a year has caused to many students. Now, as families prepare to return, AISD is dedicating resources to help in this transition. 

“Students don’t have to prove their need or wellness or care, it’s just open access –– the ability to talk to counselors at any point in time,” said Shakira Hamilton-Adams, secondary counseling coordinator. “We are starting off the beginning of the year with counselors being available in the hallways.”

This summer, counselors and teachers are going through trauma-informed care training called Trust-Based Relational Intervention, or TBRI. This training will help counselors and teachers build relationships from the first day of school.

On top of that, students will have a dedicated advisory period that focuses on lessons around mental health or social emotional learning. These lessons can be integrated into the academic curriculum throughout the day. For example, students may learn techniques to help them focus, or teachers may learn about the importance of brain breaks for their students, all of which can help students academically.

Counselors will also have one-on-one meetings with every student in the district to check in with students and re-build relationships throughout the school year. Counselors will ask tailored questions by grade level about how the student is doing.

“We are here, we are here to support, we are here to make sure that their needs are being met, and we really want to welcome students back with open arms,” Shakira-Hamilton said. 

Deeper Dive: What is TBRI?

Trust-Based Relational Intervention is an evidence-based practice that meets the needs of the whole child with an approach that is developmentally respectful, responsive to trauma and attachment-based. TBRI training and the strategy of regulate, relate, reason –– which was adopted from Dr. Bruce Perry’s Neurosequential Model of Education will be used to assist students in need. 

Regulate: Help students feel safe and emotionally settled.

The counselor makes sure the student has basic needs met before they focus on academics. This could look like making sure the student has a moment to breathe if they’re feeling overwhelmed, or even making sure they’ve eaten or are hydrated.

Relate: Build a relationship between the student and the counselor. 

The student can communicate what they need from the counselor or how the counselor can support them. Here, counselors can talk to the student about how they can help beyond their basic needs. Students will feel connected and safe with a trusted adult.

Reason: Act on meeting student needs.

The counselor connects the student with resources to meet their needs. For example, if the student is having trouble in class, the counselor might coordinate a parent-teacher conference to support the student. Students will feel connected and safe to fully engage in higher-level cognitive processes and counselors will assist them by advocating and facilitating support in and around school. Students can use higher-level thinking skills for decision-making and perspective-taking.