Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

February 10, 2011

CSKT Tribal Social Services awarded $100,000 grant to help children behavior

By Lailani Upham

PABLO The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Social Services Department was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services to help in preventing aggressive and disruptive behavior and steering guidance to appropriate on-task behaviors in young children throughout the reservation-wide school districts.

The $11 million award from SAMHSA covers a total of 22 new grants to school systems across the nation to be used over the next five years. This effort is a part of SAMHSA's strategic initiative on the prevention of substance abuse and mental illness designed to help promote emotional health, as well as prevent and delay the onset of mental illness and substance abuse, according to SAMHSA officials.

According to SAMHSA research, just over 2.8 million young people aged 12-17 (11.8 percent of this population) received treatment or counseling for problems with behavior or emotions in educational settings. SAMHSA records indicate that early identification of behavioral health problems can prevent the development of more complicated and costly mental and substance use disorders.

According to Judy Gobert, Ph. D, CSKT Tribal Social Services Program Manager, the training for the program is available to elementary teachers, grades one through five within the reservation boundary. The training is also for coaches, administrators, health personnel, counselors, and curriculum specialists.

The grant program, "Implementing Evidence-Based Prevention Programs in Schools," specifically calls on elementary schools to implement the Good Behavior Game, a classroom behavioral management strategy that has been shown to be successful in children in first and second grade. "The Good Behavior Game" when implemented in the classroom, divides students into teams and their teachers encourage positive reinforcements to inspire good behavior.

"It's entirely up to the school and the district how much or how little they want to participate. We are here to provide the resources needed but not to impose anything on anyone," Dr. Gobert expressed.

Paula Shock, second grade teacher at St. Ignatius Elementary said the competition gives the children a purpose to work on good behavior and that the game is very effective. Shock said depending on the task at hand the game might run from one minute up to 20 minutes at a time.

"Preventing substance abuse and mental disorders requires multiple and consistent interventions by all systems that touch children and youth," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. "The Good Behavior Game can help schools meet the social, emotional, and behavioral health needs of students along with promoting their academic success."

According to SAMHSA, research shows that children with behavioral problems, whose teachers used this strategy in the classroom, were much more successful than their counterparts in several areas including improved academic achievement, reduced illicit drug use, and reduced antisocial behaviors.

Shock said she has seen a big difference in impulsive behavior in some of her students within the month that she has been implementing the "game" in the classroom.

The Good Behavior Game's approach rewards children for displaying appropriate on-task behaviors during instructional times. Shock says that the terminologies they use for the "game" are words that are specific individually to each classroom. For example, in Shock's classroom the positive reinforcement is called "pax," representing "peace, harmony and appropriate." The opposite behavior is called a "spleen," something that takes away from learning, such as disruptions of tapping a pencil, making noises, rolling on the floor and so on.

In the "game" the class is divided in teams and a point is given to a team for any appropriate behavior displayed by one of the members. The team with the fewest number of points at the game's conclusion each day wins a group reward. In Shock's classroom the prizes are called "granny's wacky prize" can, where the students draw out an item. "It can be easy, simple things such as little itty bitty interruptions like rolling on the floor for 30 seconds or bouncing on a chair or tapping a pencil," she explained. "Spleen" prizes are very effective and strategic, according to SAMHSA research.

The actual process of the Good Behavior Game is relatively simple that includes five steps.

First, deciding when to schedule the game; second, define the negative behaviors that will be scored during the game; third, decide on suitable daily or weekly rewards for teams; fourth, introduce the game to the class; lastly, put it into effect.

According to SAMHSA research, proven results of the "game" has shown 50 to 90 percent reduction in disruptive or disorderly behaviors in classrooms, hallways and other public spaces; and 30 to 60 percent reduction of referrals, suspensions or expulsions. Results also include 20 to 50 percent increase in children being fully engaged in learning.

Arch General Psychiatry data from 2005, found that half of all lifetime cases of mental and substance abuse disorders begin by age 14 and three-fourths by the age of 24.

"The game allows more time in the classroom and engages kids in learning," Dr. Gobert said. The research-based behavior management model not only increases academics and decreases disruptions in young children, but it's simple, effective and best of all fun, Dr. Gobert added.

For more information on The Good Behavior Game program, please call Tribal Social Service Program Manager, Judy Gobert at (406) 675-2700, ext. 1321; or email her at judyg@cskt.org.

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