Senator Mike Massie of Albany County has been crusading for years on the subject matter of social/emotional development of Birth through 5 year olds (B-5). Senator Massie gave a presentation a few weeks ago reporting on the wonderful results of a program that the Legislature started a few years ago. The Legislature funded (and continues to fund every year) $700,000 to mental health centers around the state to help pay the salaries of 10 mental health professionals that are working throughout their respective communities on social/emotional development of Birth through 5 children. The Legislature also funded $1.2 million to developmental preschools to begin a program to assist in the intervention and helping of children (B-5) that have social/emotional issues.
Back in 2005, I heard a presentation on this subject matter when we were having a meeting in Casper. My wife, a Kindergarten Teacher, happened to be at the meeting in the audience. All the way home, she urged me to get involved with this issue and to do something to assist. I assisted Senator Massie and others in getting this initial funding in place. (The funding was requested by the committee that I now co-chair, the Select Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse).
One of the problems that was occurring was that young children were being expelled (or probably the better word is “asked to leave”) from preschools because their behavior was unmanageable. It is important to note that we are not discussing discipline issues or poor parenting. In many situations it is discovered through some testing that these children have autism or other types of issues that are effecting their social/emotional development. The kids that are expelled end up at development preschools (which can not remove children). What was discovered through this program was that when a teacher had access to social/emotional expertise, the rate of expulsion was cut in 1/2. The objective of the program was to have quality early childhood interventions.
What was also found was that the best intervention for a child (B-8) was social/emotional intervention. Increases in learning and IQ scores likely to dissipate by 2nd or 3rd grade. This last finding was what really surprised me. We hear constantly in the Legislature that we need to get kids reading at earlier and earlier ages. According to this work being done, the best thing we can do for early childhood education is to put an emphasis on social/emotional interventions. The results showed that early education in social/emotional skills produce significant and permanent results.
Below is the triangle showing the needs identified and then the 2nd triangle shows how they set up the program to provide the services for those needs.
What they discovered was that you only needed the one on one intensive interventions with a few children. The bulk of the children could be reached simply by training (or giving advice) to classroom teachers and parents as to how to deal with a certain situation.
The team came up with 14 modules. Each module takes about 2 hours to learn. You pick the module that you need advice on. For example, if you have a kid in your classroom that is biting other children, there is a module that gives ideas and advice on how to deal with that type of child. So intervention ideas are given to the classroom teacher to try. If a kid needs more assistance, then a team of professionals from the local developmental preschool can assist that child. And then lastly, a clinician is brought in.
Of those that took the training, 80% stated that they found the training useful.
The other nice part is that any provider can utilize the training for free. So a private day care provider that needs some intervention ideas can call their local developmental preschool and the training is provided free. The training is being offered to the school districts for free, so that classroom teachers (mostly K-2) can get the training.
One of the more interesting statistics was that of the children reviewed
15% were 1 step below their peers
85% even further behind their peers
After 9 months using the intervention techniques
58% had caught up to their peers
The only problem area that came up was that the State Department of Education has published new rules for designation of special education children and they have messed up the developmentally delayed category. Legislators are working with the State Department of Education. It looks like the Dept. of Ed didn’t know about this program and didn’t realize that they were messing things up.