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Program Aims to Address Challenging Behaviors Early to Improve Student Outcomes

Posted on January 21, 2019

Johnstown, PA (Jan. 21, 2019) –On an average school day nationwide, up to 250 preschoolers are suspended or expelled for disciplinary reasons, according to The Center for American Progress analysis of children’s health data. Unfortunately, expulsion doesn’t help a child address serious behavioral issues. Researchers report that discipline such as suspension isolates children who are most in need of social-emotional development.

In order to help children develop better social skills and reduce negative behaviors, The Learning Lamp is introducing Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in its child care and preschool programs. PBIS is a multi-tiered evidence-based framework used in schools and early childhood settings to create a positive climate for learning. PBIS works by establishing clear expectations for children’s behaviors, and modeling, practicing and reinforcing those behaviors daily. Rather than teachers simply reacting to misbehavior when it occurs, PBIS rewards students that engage in expected behaviors, enforces consequences, and provides constructive coaching to students exhibiting unsafe or unwanted behaviors.

“Punishing doesn’t teach the child what we want them to do, so the behaviors continue unless they learn a replacement behavior,” said Patricia Ansell, Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant at The Learning Lamp. “Skills we are teaching include play skills such as sharing and turn taking. We also work with children to learn to identify their feelings and build calming strategies, problem solving skills, conflict management strategies. Through this, they begin to understand the difference between good and bad choices.”

The Learning Lamp launched a program-wide implementation of PBIS in its early learning programs in Cambria, Somerset and Bedford counties in January. The overarching theme, “Together We SHINE,” is not only the new mantra of The Learning Lamp’s child care centers and preschools, it also clearly spells out for children what behaviors are expected of them.

“The acronym SHINE will be reinforced daily by staff to children, particularly in areas of the classroom and during times of day when we see an increase in challenging behaviors,” explained Melissa Gerber, preschool programs manager at The Learning Lamp. “The S stands for self-control; H is for ‘happy to learn’; I means ‘I am respectful’; N means ‘nice to others’; and E ensures that here ‘everyone is safe’.”

Both Gerber and Ansell completed a three-day training to become certified as PBIS facilitators. After months of planning and education of staff, The Learning Lamp will pilot the project at its Johnstown child care center near Memorial Medical Center, with implementations at eight remaining child care centers and preschools to follow. Family members of children enrolled at the Johnstown site will be introduced to PBIS during a family movie night in February so parents can reinforce the same behaviors at home.

Ansell said she anticipates seeing a significant drop in challenging behaviors as a result of the positive interventions and supports, and research backs up that statement. Successful implementation of the PBIS framework is proven to reduce major disciplinary infractions and antisocial and aggressive behaviors and dramatically improve academic engagement and achievement. Children will leave The Learning Lamp’s early learning programs with good habits in place and ready to succeed in elementary school.

For more information about The Learning Lamp’s early childhood programs, visit thelearninglamp.org or contact Melissa Gerber at 814-262-0732 ext. 289. To learn more about PBIS, visit pbis.org.

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 37,197 children and adults from 52 school districts and 71 private schools and other organizations in 19 Pennsylvania counties and communities in Maryland and West Virginia in 2017.

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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