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Act Now to Change Problem Behavior in Early Childhood

by Carol Stromme

Three year old Will was pinching, hitting, and calling other children names at Children's Discovery Academy, an early learning center in Little Canada. Yet, as his mother learned, Will is not alone in his struggle to adjust to a child care or pre-school setting.

Thousands of parents and providers are dealing with this issue on a daily basis. I know this because, as manager of a special needs program at the local non-profit Resources for Child Caring, I hear from many worried parents and caregivers. Fortunately, the director of Children's Discovery Academy had experience with children who have behavioral issues and knew exactly what to do.

The director called a consultant from the special needs program at Resources for Child Caring. Program consultants are trained in special needs and behavior issues and provide insights, suggestions and resources that allow for children's change and growth. The consultant observed how Will interacted with teachers and children at play, meal time and in groups. "She provided tools to the center and to us so we could be on the same page," says Will's mother.

As a result of the consultation, Will learned to deal with his anger by finding alternatives like using play-dough or verbalizing his feelings. He received picture-cards showing solutions to problems that were also displayed on a special board.

Improvement was noticeable and rapid. Will used the cards when he was frustrated or angry, and his behavior changed. "Someone did something to me and I said stop and told a teacher," Will told his mother. From her point of view, the program saved her a tremendous amount of stress. "It's not a judgmental kind of program," she said. "It taught us how to be a partner with the child care provider and provide continuity between the center and home."

I share Will's story because intervention at an early age is crucial. Studies show that about ten to fifteen percent of preschool children have mild to moderate levels of behavior problems. As is the case with many problems, the earlier they are addressed, the better the result will be in the long run.

While there have been many stories in the news of late about child care and its link to aggression, no one has pointed out that with guidance and support from parents and caregivers, most children can learn to regulate their reactions, including many attributed to autism and other disorders.

Additional training and support for parents and child care providers can benefit a significant number of children experiencing challenges in care settings. Program services are available free of charge to families and caregivers in Anoka, Ramsey and Washington Counties. I encourage you to take advantage of it, because early intervention can make a big difference to children and those who care for them.

Resources for Child Caring works to raise the standard of care for all children so they thrive and contribute to the community. More information on dealing with children's behavior and special needs is available by calling 651-641-6644 or can be found online at www.resourcesforchildcare.org.

Categories: Toddlers, Pre-Schoolers, Children,

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