My practice focuses on children, adolescents, and college-aged students who are suspected of having learning and/or attention difficulties. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and a Master of Science degree in school psychology at Duquesne University, I worked for several years, first at the Autism Research Project at the University of Pittsburgh and then as a school psychologist at an alternative school for students with behavioral and emotional disorders. However, I wanted a deeper understanding of how learning happens, the cognitive processes involved, and the instructional methods that promote student success. I decided to go back to school and received my Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Georgia. My doctoral training taught me that clinical skills should be practiced according to sound scientific principles that are guided by research. I believe that it is my responsibility to be knowledgeable about the research in my field in order to select the best tests for the evaluations I conduct and to make recommendations about the most effective interventions available.
A good evaluation yields a wealth of information about an individual's functioning, but that information is gathered at a fixed point in time. My goal is to interpret the test data within a fluid and dynamic context, made up of the student's unique personality and experiences, physical and mental development, and educational environment. In order to meet that goal, I have to get to know my clients. That means that I do all of my own test administration, which allows me to incorporate qualitative observations and test data into a comprehensive picture of a student's functioning. In order to be optimally helpful to the families with whom I work, I have developed a network of professionals in related fields, such as speech and language pathology and occupational therapy. I have also become familiar with the private schools in the metro-Atlanta area, and I have keep up-to-date with the procedures for receiving services in public schools and accommodations on the SAT and ACT and in college.
The relationships that I develop with my clients often do not end when the evaluation is finished. Many parents call me with questions long after an evaluation has been completed. Such questions may pertain to changes that have taken place within a child's educational setting or stem from a new problem that has emerged. Regardless, my hope is that the families I serve will feel they can call on me for answers or advice whenever the need should arise.
A number of years ago, when I first began my graduate studies at UGA, I could not have known the rewards that I would be so fortunate to receive, not only as a psychologist, but as a parent. Like many parents, I long ago let go of a fantasy - that my child would love school as much as I did and accomplish academic tasks with the ease at which he learned to walk. I have been privileged to become a member of a select group, which consists of parents of children with learning challenges. What we, as members of this group, learn is that letting go of the fantasy is to free our children from our rigid expectations. We begin to appreciate them for their individuality and marvel at the way they wear their scars as badges of honor. We have worried over how to teach our children all of the important things that they will need to know as adults. At the same time, they have been teaching us - to pour our hearts and souls into the present moment and that the most traveled road is not always the best one. They remind us what the anxiety of being a parent sometimes makes us forget, that the reality of who they are is much better than the fantasy.
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BACKGROUND and PHILOSOPHY
Dr. Kelly Montiel
Children, Families, and Adolescents