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Grant Aims to Prevent Pre-K Suspensions, Promote Social-Emotional Health

Posted on January 30, 2018

Johnstown, PA (January 25, 2018) –Every school day, up to 250 preschool children across the country are suspended or expelled for bad behavior. In all, about 50,000 children ages 3 and 4 were suspended from both public and private pre-k programs at least once in 2016, according to a recent data analysis from the nonprofit Center for American Progress. An additional 17,000 preschoolers are estimated to have been expelled.

The thought of a 4-year-old being kicked out of preschool may seem harsh, but the reality is incidents of unmanageable behaviors in early learning settings have reached serious proportions, and most early childhood providers are ill-equipped and lack the training to handle it. Thanks to a $10,000 Community Initiative Grant from Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, The Learning Lamp has introduced an Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant (IECMHC) into its preschool classrooms in Cambria and Somerset counties.

“This is an evidence-based approach proven to address the kind of severe behavioral issues that some young children bring with them into the classroom—behaviors that go beyond disrupting the class and can actually present a safety concern,” explained Erica Ponczek, director of child development and early learning at The Learning Lamp.

Through a process of child observations, interventions, discussions with parents and coaching of staff, the mental health consultant designs an action plan of program practices that are more responsive to the identified needs of the child, improving behavior and promoting strong social-emotional health. Although PA Regional Keys recently adopted the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant (ECMHC) model statewide, the demand for consultants is greater than the program can support.

“For example, Cambria County is part of a 19-county region assigned to one mental health consultant. The Learning Lamp had 13 preschool-aged children alone that could’ve benefited from consultant services last school year. Now we can address the needs of each child as the situation arises and provide our staff with the tools they need to help every child learn,” Ponczek added.

The Learning Lamp is a nonprofit organization with a mission to engage all children in the support they need to succeed. We deliver high quality programs that are affordable and accessible to families of all income levels. The Learning Lamp served 35,525 children from 62 school districts and 39 non-public and private schools and other organizations in 17 Pennsylvania counties and one county in Maryland in 2016.

Our programs include: one-to-one tutoring; before/after school programs; portable classrooms aimed at building math and science skills; alternative education programs for at-risk students; evidence-based prevention programs; online learning and credit recovery; SAT preparation; educationally-focused child care; literacy-based preschool programs; and grant writing and project consulting for schools.


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