Safe Schools Today spoke with Dr. Ted Feinberg, assistant executive director for the National Association of School Psychologists, about helping survivors cope with the Sept. 11 tragedy. The association’s web site (http://www.nasponline.org) has been offering advice and tools for coping and is updated daily. In the first 10 days following the attacks, the site had 2.8 million hits.

What can the schools most directly affected do to support their students?

“There were nine schools close to the epicenter that were directly impacted. What they’re trying to do is see that relocation goes as smoothly as possible, that their needs are attended to in new schools, and that they have strong advocates in order to be sure the students’ education has continuity.”

Is there anything that it is particularly important to remember when counseling students?

“Children with special needs can get forgotten about in the craziness of these terrible moments, whether they are children who are orthopedically impaired or with emotional or cognitive problems. They may not react in a timely way or they may act in a way deemed inappropriate by the mainstream population, and they may be ill-prepared to handle the situation. People need to be alert to this and cut some slack for these children. They need to be patient and helpful.”

What should people keep in mind when dealing with these situations?

“The most important thing adults can do is take care of themselves. It’s much like the advice you get when you’re on an airplane: If the cabin pressure becomes problematic and those oxygen masks fall down, adults are told to put their own masks on first before caring for the children. All adults need to remember to take good care of themselves so they can continue to take care of the children properly.”