As much as 10 percent of our nation’s population of children aged 0-5 have “clinically significant” social-emotional challenges.1 This means that as many as 2.5 million preschool children meet the criteria for a mental health diagnosis.2

With 60 percent of our young children enrolled in daycare or preschool programs, behavioral and emotional problems often manifest in these settings.3 Many times, child care and early intervention providers don’t have the experience or the expertise to properly manage certain challenging behaviors - something they’ve voiced as a major concern.4 But only 27 percent of preschool teachers in the U.S. have access to childhood mental health consultation services. As a result, preschool children are expelled at a rate three times greater than the national rate for children in grades kindergarten through twelve.5

“Young children have very few ways to let us know what’s going on with them ... All you have is their behavior. It’s the right thing to be focusing on.”

         - Sherry Shamblin

 

  

Gilliam6 concluded early childhood mental health consultation may be an effective means for decreasing the likelihood that children with challenging classroom behaviors will be expelled or suspended. Consultations are designed to provide the guidance, training and resources to ensure each child comes into the classroom ready to learn and grow.

“Young children have very few ways to let us know what’s going on with them,” said Sherry Shamblin, Early Childhood Director for Tri-County Mental Health and Counseling Services in Athens, Ohio. “They have their play, and they have their behavior. Even if they have good language, many times they don’t have the sophistication to say what’s going on internally. All you have is their behavior. It’s the right thing to be focusing on.”

Recognizing the importance of effectively embedding early childhood mental health services into early care and education environments, IPAC has invested in supporting two collaborative ventures.  One is through the Logan Hocking School District and the second is through Tri-County Mental Health and Counseling Services, Inc.


Preschool PATHS at the Logan Hocking Schools

Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies or PATHS is a social-emotional violence prevention curriculum listed on the SAMSHA National Registry of Evidence Based Programs and Practices.  Results of numerous research studies demonstrate positive social-emotional and academic outcomes for participating students.  Logan Hocking Teachers have embraced the program with 95% of the teachers reporting that the program is effective in helping students understand "feeling words"; 88% report increased student empathy and compassion. 

Previously, the PATHS program was only conducted one time a week for preschool and kindergarten students.  However, the curriculum is designed to be delivered more frequently.  Through funding from Project LAUNCH, Logan Hocking Schools have purchased additional materials so that teachers can integrate the program into their daily routine.  By providing training and technical assistance to teachers and their mental health partners, IPAC hopes to ensure a strong social-emotional foundation for all students in Hocking County.

 

Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation at Tri-County Mental Health and Counseling, Inc.

With funding from HRSA’s Rural Health Care Services Outreach Grant and SAMHSA’s Project LAUNCH, IPAC has successfully supported the initiation and expansion of a specialized Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation program housed within Tri-County Mental Health and Counseling Services, Inc.

 

Thanks to the support and technical expertise obtained through IPAC, this program has successfully created ongoing partnerships with five schools in three counties: Trimble Local and Coolville Elementary in Athens County, Central and South Elementaries in Vinton County and Little Hocking Elementary in Hocking County. Since 2009, these partnerships have served approximately 480 children and 48 early childhood staff.

Through ongoing feedback with school partners, along with ongoing technical expertise from Georgetown University’s Center for Child and Human Development, we have developed an innovative, comprehensive early childhood consultation model tailored to meet the needs of the children and families in our area.

The consultants, who work directly in the schools, offer three tiers of services: universal, targeted and intensive.

Universal consultation focuses on strategies that help teachers support the healthy social-emotional development of all students in their class. The goals at this level of service are to implement a social-emotional curriculum that meets the resiliency needs of the children in a class and to support the professional development of teachers.

Targeted consultation services aim to assist teachers with individual children who present challenging classroom behaviors. The goals of this service are to decrease challenging classroom behaviors for identified children who have not responded to typical classroom interventions and to initiate home-school communication strategies.

Intensive services focus on addressing mental health assessment and treatment needs for individual children. The goals are to identify specialized behavioral needs of children who may be exhibiting mental health and/or developmental disorders through a comprehensive mental health assessment and to provide the appropriate evidenced-based treatment in the most appropriate setting.

For teachers, these strategies have improved confidence, self-efficacy and perception of classroom quality. For students, these tactics have been found to improve their self-control.

If you have questions about the consultation model, the PATHS program, or general questions about early childhood mental health, write to ipacohio@gmail.com.

1. Center for Mental Health in Schools, 2005; 2. Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2009; 3. Donahue, 2002; Huang et al., 2004; 4. Cutler & Gilkerson, 2002; 5. Gilliam, 2005; 6. Gilliam, 2008.