Based in the Neag School of Education, Chafouleas serves as co-director of the UConn Collaboratory on School and Child Health (CSCH). Chafouleas has had continued success with extramurally funded research, with work focused on supporting school system implementation of evidence-informed practices and expertise in areas of integrated health and learning (whole child), school mental health, and behavior assessment. Author of over 150 publications, Chafouleas regularly serves as a national presenter and invited speaker. She is a fellow in both the American Psychological Association and Association for Psychological Science, and has received numerous university awards for her scholarship and mentorship.
Prior to becoming a university trainer, she worked as a school psychologist and school administrator in a variety of settings supporting the needs of children with behavior disorders.
Areas of Expertise (7)
Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model
School Mental Health
Integrated Health and Academics
Syracuse University: Certificate of Advanced Study, Educational Leadership Program 1998
Syracuse University: PhD, Philosophy 1997
Syracuse University: MA, Science 1995
State University of New York at Binghamton: BA, Arts 1993
- American Psychological Association, fellow
- Association for Psychological Science, fellow
- Society for the Study of School Psychology, president-elect
Scholar Award (professional)
2016 American Psychological Association Division 16 Oakland Mid-Career Scholar Award
Media Appearances (15)
Stressed out at college? Here are five essential reads on how to take better care of your mental health
The Conversation online
Before students even set foot on campus, they should develop a wellness plan to help them avoid major emotional distress. That’s according to Sandra M. Chafouleas, professor of educational psychology at the University of Connecticut, who details what every student’s wellness plan should include. “… personal wellness plans must be customized to meet each individual student’s own needs,” she writes. “And I believe that since it is unclear whether new college students will be on physical campuses this fall or learning online, these plans are more important than ever.”
More tinsel and less tension: How to get the best out of the holiday season
This year, holiday travel is expected to be more like it was before the coronavirus reached the US, according to projections from AAA. How people celebrate may still look very different, however. "Some of us still continue to face what seem to be insurmountable challenges, but everyone was exposed to doing something different," said Sandra Chafouleas, professor of educational psychology at the University of Connecticut. "It did let us let go of a lot of things."
Celebrating Holiday Traditions
New England Cable News tv
Sue O’Connell hit the streets to find out about people’s holiday traditions. She also spoke with Professor Sandra Chafouleas about how important these rituals are to the holiday season.
Back To School 2021: Supporting The Social And Emotional Needs Of Students
WNPR - Where We Live radio
A year ago, we were wondering when the vaccine would be available and is it really safe to return to school? Today, those questions are still relevant! This hour, Connecticut Public’s Accountability Project joins us to talk about its education series including an investigation into the decisions immunocompromised families have to make this school year. Later, we talk about the mental health needs of students. What sort of support will children need from their schools?
A Behavioral Vaccine to Support Positive Classroom Behavior
As vaccine efforts continue to ramp up, Sandra M. Chafouleas, a school psychologist and Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut, presents a different kind of a vaccine — a behavioral vaccine. Chafouleas notes that vaccines are intended to be preventive. It is a simple matter to receive a vaccine in early childhood to prevent more serious and possibly fatal diseases. As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes the latest inoculation, Chafouleas is finding parallels between vaccines and the little things we can do as educators to support positive behaviors in the classroom.
A year into the pandemic, kids face struggles and some silver linings
The Day of New London print
Sandra M. Chafouleas, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor and Neag Endowed Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut, said experts are seeing an increase in concern about mental health and emotional well-being, especially among teenagers who may be missing opportunities to pursue interests, social connection and independence, at a time when communities are also facing serious economic and health impacts. She said that if "you don't feel well, you don't do well," so while some students have adapted well to remote learning, many have not. She said it's critical for each student to be connected to someone in school to help monitor when things aren't quite right and for schools to adjust their expectations. As students return to more in-person learning, schools will play an even bigger role in connecting students to support.
Teen Suicide During COVID-19: The Second Crisis In Our Schools
Blog Talk Radio online
Why have suicide rates increased among teens in U.S. since the start of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic? Licensed psychologist, Dr. Sandra M. Chafouleas, joins us for a discussion and to share her thoughts on the mental health struggle of teenagers in schools. Dr Chafouleas works as a Distinguished Professor in the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. She directs the UConn Collaboratory on School and Child Health (CSCH), and authors a Psychology Today blog on promoting student well-being. Her work focuses on assisting schools in implementation of evidence-informed policies and practices that support the whole child, with specific expertise in strategies to strengthen mental health and emotional well-being.
Pandemic Hitting Families Of Those With Disabilities Harder
Disability Scoop online
Sandra Chafouleas, co-director of the Collaboratory on School and Child Health and one of the researchers behind the survey, said that a detailed report on the findings is currently being reviewed for publication in a scientific journal and a follow-up survey is being conducted to see how families have managed six months into the pandemic. “I think the results of our initial study provide confirmation — from a research standpoint — regarding the many news reports that we have seen about the increased expectation, without additional resources, faced by caregivers of children with disabilities,” Chafouleas said. “The burden is real, and taking not only a toll on their children but caregiver well-being.”
Face the Facts: COVID-19 Concerns for New School Year
NBC Connecticut tv
UConn researcher Sandra Chafouleas talks with NBC Connecticut about concerns over COVID-19 and school reopenings.
U.S. teens envision fall school reopening during COVID-19 pandemic
Some experts said the best ideas may come from students themselves, like those in the DYG competition. They noted that schoolchildren have risen to safety challenges before, particularly in response to mass shootings. “Student input is critical,” said Sandra Chafouleas, a psychology professor at University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education. “We can’t just assume that we know best because we are the adults.”
Distance-bullying? Rates may be low, but reporting, investigating more complex, experts say
CT Post online
Cyberbullying could worsen during distance learning unless districts focus on positive online environments for kids, experts say.
Schools are Discouraged from Restraining or Secluding Kids. Both Still Happen in Wisconsin -- But No One Can Say How Often
Post Crescent online
No federal law regulates seclusion and restraint, but the U.S. Department of Education notes in a guide that "the foundation of any discussion about the use of restraint and seclusion is that every effort should be made to avoid it and provide enough supports that the practice becomes unnecessary." Sandra Chafouleas, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Connecticut, says seclusion and restraint can cause increased post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and start a cycle of escalation and learned helplessness.
What is the WellSAT WSCC?
Description: CSCH Program Manager Helene Marcy interviews CSCH Co-Director Sandra Chafouleas and CSCH Steering Committee Member Marlene Schwartz about their work developing the WellSAT WSCC Tool
‘Starbucks classrooms,’ plus six other new approaches in education
The Washington Post online
“A trauma-informed approach is critical for schools,” says Sandra Chafouleas, a professor of educational psychology at University of Connecticut who has researched the topic. She says the new push helps school staffs identify and provide counseling for the estimated one-half to two-thirds of students who, according to the Education Law Center, probably have experienced trauma. In an all-too-familiar cycle, such students are much more apt to suffer, fail or even lash out at classmates and others, experts say.
Why Dention Sucks...And Manual Labour Is Better
On the face of it, this may seem like a regressive approach to addressing behavioral issues. Indeed, most of the recent scholarship in this area advocates for moving away from punishment “in favor of positive behavior support,” says Sandra Chafouleas, professor of educational psychology at the University of Connecticut — methods that focus on preventing misbehavior without resorting to punitive measures. But while prevention is certainly key, says George Bear from the University of Delaware School of Education, “I can’t imagine a school that did not have some form of punishment” when those approaches prove inadequate. If some punishment is necessary, wouldn’t sweeping floors be preferable to enforced silence?
Event Appearances (7)
Responding to COVID-19: Planning for Trauma-Informed Assessment in Schools
Evidence-Based Guidance for How Schools Can Respond to A National Mental Health Crisis in the Wake of COVID-19 - 2020 Virtual Conference
Improving Educators’ Use of Data-Driven Problem-Solving to Reduce Disciplinary Infractions for Students with Emotional Disturbance
Spencer Foundation Conference on Reducing Suspensions and Expulsions of Students with Disabilities: Linking Research, Law, Policy and Practice - 2019 Loyola University, Chicago, IL
Exploring the national landscape of behavioral screening in US schools
Symposium at the National Association of School Psychologists Conference - 2019 Atlanta, GA
Defining and Measuring Risk in Special Education and Early Intervention Research: Considerations for Social, Emotional, & Behavioral Domains
Institute of Education Sciences Annual Principal Investigators Meeting - 2018 Arlington, VA
The Whole Child: A Blueprint for Success.
ASCD Empower 18 Conference - 2018 Boston, MA
Best practices in school-based services for addressing trauma.
National Association of School Psychologists Conference - 2018 Chicago, IL
Understanding Successes and Challenges in Caregiver HealthPromoting Self-Care.
National Association of School Psychologists Annual Convention - 2017 San Antonio, TX
Research Grants (4)
Exploring the Status and Impact of School-Based Behavior Screening Practices in a National Sample: Implications for Systems, Policy, and Research
US Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (R305A140543) $1,600,000
Principal Investigator 7/1/2014 - 6/30/2017
Project VIABLE-II: Unified validation of Direct Behavior Rating (DBR) in a problem-solving model
US Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (R324A110017) $2,300,000
Principal Investigator 7/1/2011 - 6/30/2015
Enhancing Ci3T: Building Professional Capacity for High Fidelity Implementation to Support Students’ Educational Outcomes (Project ENHANCE)
US Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences $3,999,321
Co-Principal Investigator 7/1/2019 - 6/30/2020
Increasing Capacity for Partnerships Across Education and Health: Developing Guiding Blueprints for Implementation of Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Framework
Research Excellence Program, Office of the Vice President for Research at UConn $24,059
Principal Investigator 7/1/2016 - 6/30/2017
School mental health resources critical to ensuring safe school environmentsThe Conversation
Amy Briesch and Sandra Chafouleas
Whenever a mass shooting takes place in schools, public discussion often focuses on laws or policies that might have prevented the tragedy. But averting school violence needs more than gun policy. It requires both prevention and crisis response that take students’ emotional well-being – not just their physical safety – into account. School violence prevention also requires professionals – counselors, psychologists and social workers – who know how to create an emotionally safe environment, which research shows is critical to safe schools. Unfortunately, statistics show there is a critical shortage of such employees. Staffing shortages have become a major obstacle to creating schools that are emotionally safe for children.
Pandemic-related school closings likely to have far-reaching effects on child well-beingThe Conversation
A global analysis has found that kids whose schools closed to stop the spread of various waves of the coronavirus lost educational progress and are at increased risk of dropping out of school. As a result, the study says, they will earn less money from work over their lifetimes than they would have if schools had remained open. Educational researchers like me know these students will feel the effects of pandemic-related school closures for many years to come. Here are four other ways the closings have affected students’ well-being for the long term.
How to Use Homework to Support Student SuccessPsychology Today
School assignments that a student is expected to do outside of the regular school day—that’s homework. The general guideline is 10 minutes of nightly homework per grade level beginning after kindergarten. This amounts to just a few minutes for younger elementary students to up to 2 hours for high school students. The guidance seems straightforward enough, so why is homework such a controversial topic? School disruptions, including extended periods of remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, have magnified the controversies yet also have provided an opportunity to rethink the purpose and value of homework.
Why Mental Well-Being Promotion Must Extend to Youth SportsPsychology Today
As a psychologist and a parent of children participating in youth sports, it has been exciting for me to witness the increasing media attention on mental health and athletics. Mental toughness has long been a central topic within sports circles, but the current discussions are different. The past year has brought the mental health and well-being of athletes into mainstream conversation, whether it be as a plotline in season two of Apple TV’s “Ted Lasso” (promise, no more spoilers!), professional athletes’ stories highlighted during World Mental Health Day, or Simon Biles’ withdrawal from events at the Tokyo Olympics.
Students are returning to school with anxiety, grief and gaps in social skills – will there be enough school mental health resources?The Conversation
Sandra Chafouleas and Amy Briesch
Even before COVID-19, as many as 1 in 6 young children had a diagnosed mental, behavioral or developmental disorder. New findings suggest a doubling of rates of disorders such as anxiety and depression among children and adolescents during the pandemic. One reason is that children’s well-being is tightly connected to family and community conditions such as stress and financial worries. Particularly for children living in poverty, there are practical obstacles, like transportation and scheduling, to accessing mental health services. That’s one reason school mental health professionals – who include psychologists, counselors and social workers – are so essential.
Spring Is Time for a Check-Up on Family Well-BeingPsychology Today
Each of us defines well-being a little differently. In simple terms, well-being has been defined as judging life positively and feeling good. Physical, emotional, social, financial, spiritual, and environmental – there are many possible dimensions contributing to overall well-being, which is essential to a healthy life. In fact, the World Health Organization defines total health as including not only the absence of disease and illness, but also the presence of well-being across different dimensions.
Bringing ‘behavioral vaccines’ to school: 5 ways educators can support student well-beingThe Conversation
As many schools in the U.S. figure out how to safely and fully resume in-person instruction, much of the focus is on vaccinations. But there’s another type of “vaccine” that may be beneficial for some returning K-12 students that could be overlooked. Those are known as “behavioral vaccines.” Behavioral vaccines are not some sort of serum to help control how children behave. There are no needles, shots or drugs involved. Behavioral vaccines are simple steps that educators and parents can take to help support child well-being throughout the day.
Reopening schools requires doing less, betterCT Viewpoints
George Sugai and Sandra Chafouleas
For educators, families, and communities, April is bringing a welcome sign of hope to a year of unchartered challenges as political unrest, COVID-19, social and racial disparities, and violence have disrupted and dismantled our schools’ traditional approach to education. The appointment of Miguel A. Cardona as the 12th Secretary of Education and the passing of the American Rescue Plan of 2021 does make it feel like spring, in fact, has sprung. The possibility of equitable school environments for our nation’s children appears tangible, however, recovery must attend to more than filling holes with intent to return to a “new normal.”
Trump’s reaction to defeat further confirms urgency for school focus on social emotional skillsCT Viewpoints
Imagine what would happen if a preschooler didn’t “use their words” when they got upset about sharing, instead stomping around yelling while adults simply observed in silence. Think about what the school climate would feel like if a student punched another during recess while others watched without seeking help. Now consider the actions – and inactions – by Trump Jan. 6 as the electoral vote counts occurred at the U.S. Capitol. Those behaviors show a desperate need for social emotional learning. According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), social emotional learning involves five core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Trump did not demonstrate these competencies when the election didn’t go the way he wanted.
Here’s Why Silver Linings Are Important to Education in 2021Psychology Today
When 2020 began, we had no clue as to the changes coming to our children’s education. Looking to the new year, the only thing that seems certain is that uncertainty in school opportunity, format, and structure will continue as the conditions around us adjust. School will carry on as unpredictable and unprecedented. Life in a virtual environment cannot truly be compared to face-to-face, yet a wide range of reactions have surfaced about the school experience. Substantial challenges with remote and hybrid learning have been noted, however, there has not been not a one-size-fits-all perspective regarding a best education option. Altered learning formats have brought confusion, struggle, and feelings of being overwhelmed for some whereas others have noted eagerness to engage new technology and creativity in adapting activities.
COVID-19 means a lot more work for families of children with disabilities, but schools can helpThe Conversation
Sandra M. Chafouleas and Emily A. Iovino
Children don’t come with how-to manuals. Even if they did, they would all require a manual of their own, tailored to their unique make and model. That’s why caregiving can be rewarding, as well as puzzling and demanding – particularly for family caregivers of children with disabilities. Although these caregivers often report that the role gives them a sense of purpose, it usually comes with physical, emotional and financial strains. COVID-19 has added major hurdles to accessing, delivering and evaluating special education services.
Finding Joy through the Holiday SeasonPsychology Today
The typical holiday season can bring forth any number of emotions, from anger and sadness to joy and awe. Family traditions – those repeated and symbolically meaningful holiday rituals – play a big role in shaping your feelings throughout the season. Families traditions can buffer conflicts, boost positive feelings, and bring people closer together. The pandemic is bringing an atypical holiday season this year, presenting change in the things we do, the way we do them, and who we do them with. We may miss out on getting together in person with family and friends, traveling to cherished places, or taking part in our traditional celebrations. Forced upon us, these unfamiliar changes can evoke feelings of loss and frustration.
Talking to Kids About the Dysfunctional Presidential DebatePsychology Today
“I think that was worse than our seventh-grade mock debate.” That’s what our 14-year-old said after Tuesday night’s presidential debate, which had been assigned by the high school politics teacher to watch and analyze. I murmured agreement as I wasn’t quite sure what else to say at the moment — but woke up the next morning wondering how that ninth-grade teacher was going to handle a class discussion about the debate. Clearly, there was more to talk about beyond the specific campaign issues.
America Is Facing a Teen Suicide PandemicPsychology Today
Six months ago, we could not have imagined that our daily vocabulary would be filled with the p-word. And while perhaps we are getting tired of hearing the word pandemic, I can’t help but ask why we haven’t used it to bring urgency to confronting teen suicide. The race to find a cure to the COVID-19 pandemic certainly is front and center, but that same sense of urgency does not seem to be evident for the unsettling rise in teen suicide. In the United States, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death—with more than 2,000 14- to 18-year-olds dying every year by suicide, and accounting for about one of every three injury-related deaths. That’s the equivalent of losing a large high school’s worth of teenagers to suicide, year after year. These numbers demand our attention.
4 Questions to Ask Now in Preparing Your Child for SchoolPsychology Today
I recently read a post from a frustrated parent who attended a back-to-school virtual meeting. The parent wanted practical steps on preparing for school, but instead received a lot of information about mindfulness and social-emotional health. The school perhaps missed an opportunity here to engage families in why social, emotional, and behavioral health is so important, and how it is critical for schools and families to partner as we head into fall.
How to Help Children Navigate Back-to-School DebatesPsychology Today
Given the seemingly endless media frenzy around the back-to-school debates, I can imagine that conversations in most homes have been pretty stressful lately. At least I know they have been in my house as we await – sometimes not so patiently — the final plans for our two college students and one high schooler. It’s been really hard not to get swept up by the very strong and often opposing opinions, and I certainly don’t envy any school leader charged with making these difficult reopening decisions.
Responding to COVID-19: Planning For Trauma-Informed Assessment In SchoolsCSCH Report
2020 Children with a history of trauma have an increased risk of negative outcomes throughout their lives. Researchers have recently called for improved school-based screening to identify childhood trauma, but those tools have limitations. Multiple issues must be considered in determining how best to evaluate responses to trauma; a single assessment solution applied broadly across school settings is not recommended.
Our teens are missing so many milestones, but there are things we can doHartford Courant
2020 Graduation, prom, banquets, trips. Our teenagers are lamenting so many lost milestones. My daughter, a high school senior, recently summed up her thoughts about graduating amid a pandemic: “It feels like the light at the end of the tunnel was just snuffed out.” As a parent, it is a daily struggle not to get swept up in the sadness of the losses forced by COVID-19. As a school psychologist, I am trying my best to heed what I know about coping and promoting resilience. Life is supposed to present us with bumps — bumps can help us grow if the right supports are available to brace for them. But the intensity of the current global situation means that we need to identify and draw on positive coping resources more purposefully.
5 things college students should include in a plan for their wellnessThe Conversation
2020 As a psychologist and the mother of two college-aged students, I am concerned about my children’s future emotional well-being. I know that the late teens to early 20s are a time when the majority of many lifetime mental health disorders take hold. Given all the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic – from isolation to limited job opportunities – the need for supports to address mental health issues seems likely to increase.
Stress: Family Caregivers Of Children With DisabilitiesCSCH Report
2019 Family caregivers play an essential role within the national health care system, particularly as a resource for children with developmental disabilities (DD). In the U.S., the prevalence of children aged 3–17 years diagnosed with a developmental disability increased by 9.5% between 2009 and 2017.
A Review of State-Level Procedural Guidance for Implementing Multitiered Systems of Support for Behavior (MTSS-B)Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions
2019 Given the authority of state government over public education, one means of narrowing the best-practice to actual-practice gap in education is by putting forth clear state guidance and recommendations to schools. To date, however, little is known about the national landscape of procedural guidance that is readily available to practitioners looking to implement multitiered systems of support for behavior (MTSS-B).
A systematic review of trauma screening measures for children and adolescentsSchool Psychology Quarterly
Eklund, K., Rossen, E., Koriakin, T., & Chafouleas, S. M.
2018 Traumatized youth are at an increased risk of a host of negative academic and psychoeducational outcomes. Screening and identification of students who experience potentially traumatic events may help schools provide support to at-risk students. In light of this, the current study examines the availability and use of trauma screening measures to detect early indicators of risk among youth in schools. A systematic review was conducted to identify measures available to screen children and youth for trauma exposure and/or symptoms, as well as the associated psychometric properties to support each instrument’s applied use in schools. Eighteen measures met inclusion criteria, which consisted primarily of student self-report rating scales and clinical interviews. While many instruments measure the symptomology or exposure to trauma among children and youth, very little psychometric evidence was available to support the use of these measures in schools. Additional research is needed to endorse and expand the use of trauma screening measures in schools. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
Addressing Childhood Trauma in School Settings: A Framework for Evidence‑Based Practice.School Mental Health
Chafouleas, S. M., Koriakin, T. A., Roundfield, K. D., & Overstreet, S.
2018 Supporting evidence and intervention resources for addressing childhood trauma are growing, with schools indicated as a potentially critical system for service delivery. Multiple points for prevention and intervention efforts in schools are possible, but in this manuscript, we review evidence on trauma-specific interventions targeted to students exhibiting negative symptoms. Trauma-specific interventions with evidence and utility for school-based delivery are highlighted, along with key considerations in selection. In addition, we discuss the potential to maximize the impact of trauma-specific interventions for individual students when delivered as part of a school-wide trauma-informed approach that incorporates system-level prevention and intervention strategies. Future directions for research on trauma-specific interventions and trauma-informed approaches in school settings are discussed.
Accessing Behavioral Health Services: Introduction to a Special Issue of Research, Policy, and PracticeSchool Mental Health
Joni W. Splett, Sandra M. Chafouleas, Melissa W.R. George
2018 There is an urgency to improve accessibility of behavioral health services for children and families given both an increasing need and decreasing support. This special issue aims to advance our understanding of what works to make behavioral health services for children accessible through a collection of articles that examine the issue from research, policy, and practice perspectives.
Analysis of State-Level Guidance Regarding School-Based, Universal Screening for Social, Emotional, and Behavioral RiskSchool Mental Health
Amy M. Briesch, Sandra M. Chafouleas, Ruth K. Chaffee
2018 Despite recommendations to extend prevention and early intervention related to behavioral health into school settings, limited research has been directed toward understanding how these recommendations have been translated by states into education policies and initiatives. This macro-level information is important toward understanding the priorities that have influence on the processes and practices occurring in local school settings.