School psychologist explains the importance of building relationships

FRISCO, TX – Attendees at the keynote presentation, “Mental Health First Aid on the School Bus,” by Adam Saenz, Ph.D., at the Transporting Students with Disabilities and Special Needs (TSD) conference did could not sit down right away. Instead, Saenz walked the participants through a myriad of stress relief exercises.

Take a minute, he said on Saturday morning before the TSD show, and roll your neck in your circle, put your arms across your body and touch your toes. Then he guided the participants through a breathing exercise, in which he trained everyone to inhale, hold their breath and exhale.

“You are now more relaxed than you were two minutes ago,” Saenz said, adding that adrenaline and cortisol cause the body’s fight-or-flight response, which ultimately makes our breathing quicker and our body feels stressed. . This morning, he said, it only took a short time to consciously stop that response and put our bodies to rest and digest.

Saenz then explained to the participants about his childhood and how he was one of the at-risk students that no one seemed to be able to understand. Throughout his childhood and into his early adulthood, he was depressed, overwhelmed, on drugs, and felt like he would never be anything. Her mother gave her up her parental rights. He accepted that this is what he was going to be.

However, he credited his subsequent college degrees and his professional and personal successes to two teachers who saw something in him. He had moved to a small town in Caty, Texas, and to another loving family. Although at 18, the family told him he was alone in life. When he graduated from high school, teachers wrote him letters expressing their belief that Saenz would one day achieve greatness. But those words haunted him, he said. Eventually, after working as a fast food chef, Saenz decided to go to college, as well as get his masters and doctorate degrees. Currently, he is a school psychologist and author.

“I want to prove to you that you don’t have to be a licensed psychologist to make a difference in a child’s life,” he said.

He explained that he would never have emerged from the pre-conquered perception of himself without the two teachers who believed him. They were educators who had invested themselves in him. “My life is proof that any kind of kid you work with, you as an adult have the power to make a difference in their life,” he added.

Although he noted that school bus drivers are not meant to be therapists and instead are required to safely transport students to and from school safely, they can foster positive relationships with students. that they carry.

Saenz added that physically, bodies will be healthier if they are connected in relation to each other. Plus, he said they’re less likely to suffer from mental illnesses, like depression.

Saenz then provided four essential skills for developing healthier relationships:

Reflective. This implies going beyond one’s work and identifying one’s vocation. When people realize that they are accomplishing their goal, better results follow. The goal of the public is to provide transportation for students with unique needs, he said.

He explained that school bus drivers help students get to school and, therefore, help them complete their education. “We have to be connected to our sense of purpose,” he said. Saenz noted that sometimes when people really don’t want to be in a certain place in life or at a certain job, they go through the stages of grief: denial, anger, negotiation, depression, and acceptance.

When people get to the acceptance stage, he said, they usually recognize that even though that’s not what I want, this is where I am. Once this stage is reached, people can learn to cultivate where they are planted.

Saenz added that healthy relationships don’t happen naturally. They take work. He noted that for people who do not want to keep their current job or role, or if they are there for the wrong reasons, they will not have the resources to initiate and maintain healthy relationships.

Direction. Emotion is the fuel, he says. He asked the audience to think about how they adaptively deal with the fuel of their emotions, especially in terms of anger, frustration and hopelessness. Because emotion is fuel, he said, it can be used to fuel a vehicle or burn down a house.

In order for people to understand their emotions, he said, they must identify the feeling, relate the feeling to a behavior, and choose a surrogate. For example, speaking negatively about a supervisor or a student will not help develop these relationships.

He noted that people don’t want to be around other people who engage in hurtful behavior, which in turn hurts relationships. He added that if someone is prone to expressing emotions inappropriately, they will sabotage their ability to build healthy relationships.

Link. It is the essence of having an experience that is understood to be shared. Saenz explained that while he and the attendees were at the main presentation, they shared time and space and therefore connected.

He noted that when building relationships, people want to feel safe and therefore connect with like-minded people. Those who have the same values, beliefs, maybe even those who look alike or look alike.

However, he asked what if a student who takes your bus is not like you? Or their parents are not like you? He said the job of a bus driver is always to connect with them. He noted that there are two different ways to connect. Contingent communication is based on the completion of a task. Non-contingent communication, Saenz said, asks questions such as, “How was your weekend? And “How’s your brother doing?” These types of questions deepen the relationship between two individuals. This is the type of communication that should take place with students and bus drivers, and even in transport services in general, he noted. Additionally, he said picky kids and those who may not have the same ideas as others are the ones drivers should go out of their way to connect with.

He added that students want to perform in front of adults with whom they feel connected. Saenz added that by nature humans are relational creatures and it is necessary to bond between differences for relationships to thrive.

Protect. To protect is to set limits to establish what belongs to a person. Maybe it means protecting their property, feelings, thoughts, body or loved ones. He noted that beliefs dictate perceptions, which dictate behavior. It is the same backwards.

For example, a person believes they are valuable and therefore expects another person to treat them with the value they deserve. And respect and worth will be different from person to person.


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“When you show me that you will treat me dearly, you can come back,” Saenz said of setting limits. People who think they have no value will allow others to walk around and take advantage of them.

In conclusion, he said that self-protection is a basic human instinct and that healthy boundaries are necessary for relationships to thrive. However, he noted that sometimes instead of building a fence to keep people out, a bridge may be needed to see what people are going through and how to meet them in the middle.

Every day there is an opportunity not to necessarily connect completely, but to engage with every student, said Shawn Woods, director of security for Apple Bus Company, following the speech. He noted that drivers can ask how students are doing each morning or afternoon. Woods said Saenz’s speech took a unique approach as it blended his personal experience with his professional knowledge. “I really enjoyed this session,” he said.

Woods said he had many takeaways from the presentation, such as the importance of focusing on difficult students and turning negative situations into positive ones.

Participant Peggy Miller, training manager for Conroe ISD in Texas, said she was reporting the topics discussed to her team to help them develop them, while also asking for more support from them. This presentation not only resonated with what she does every day, but it can also steer her towards the school bus and building relationships with students and drivers.

“I know you can make a difference in anyone’s life if you make the effort,” said Miller, who is in his fourth year at TSD.


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