Greg Simonson works with kids who have trouble in the classroom during primary instruction times—at risk for exclusion from general education. During math or reading, some of the students in his current group were spending up to 90 percent of their time off task.
Simonson provided these students systematic access to choices. With structured, timed interventions, about 10 minutes each, he’s seeing percentage of time on task increase dramatically.
“A lot of kids got to 100 percent,” he says. “It’s really a proof of concept. This is a person-centered approach to behavior interventions. My work is about giving kids more access to choice.”
Simonson is a doctoral candidate in the school psychology program conducting an internship at Fraser, a service provider for people with disabilities around Minnesota. Before graduate school he worked for three years with students with autism in public schools. He’s had a long interest in behavioral interventions.
Most school psychology students conduct school-based intervention studies to bolster student learning and well-being, but those projects can be expensive to administer. A fellowship from the Kim M. and David B. Cooke Fund for School Psychology made the difference for Simonson. It provided funds to buy the reinforcers for his students to choose, from games to stickers to snacks, as well as incidental costs that add up, like paper.
“The Cooke Fellowship allowed me to work on my dissertation more naturally, with a lot less stress,” says Simonson.
It was aspiring professionals like Simonson who inspired Kim Cooke, ’78, to establish the fund. Cooke was a distance swimmer for the Gopher women under coach Jean Freeman and calls the U home. In her career as a school psychologist in Osseo school district 279, Cooke was buoyed by the enthusiasm of school psychology interns and practicum students she had the opportunity to work with. But too often they said they wished they’d had the time or money to do something to make a bigger impact.
This spring she got to meet the first five Cooke Fellowship recipients.
“To meet that group was a thrill beyond words,” says Cooke. “It’s a blessing to me.”
Learn more about the school psychology program.
Story by Gayla Marty | Photo by David Ellis | Winter 2018