If children are going to succeed in school, at work and in life, they need to master the critical cognitive, social and emotional skills necessary to thrive. Too often we only focus on cognitive development, but this week Dr. Walter Gilliam from Yale’s Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy returned to Maine to talk to the Maine Children’s Caucus about social emotional learning and development.
Lawmakers got a chance to learn about Dr. Gilliam’s research on the efficacy of cost-effective early childhood consultation programs and what they could do for Maine’s young children.
Dr. Gilliam’s research proposes effective and low-cost solutions as Maine explores how to address the large number of young children with serious challenging behaviors. The Maine Children’s Growth Council, the Maine Children’s Alliance as well as state and national experts have been working on a research project at the behest of the State Legislature to better understand the social emotional learning and development of Maine’s young children.
The group found that a high percentage of early childhood teachers and providers are experiencing children with challenging behaviors in their care and many want increased support and opportunities to learn how to effectively address these behaviors. The full report from Maine’s Social Emotional Learning and Development Project is available online.
Often when a child exhibits challenging behaviors in the classroom it is an indicator that they lack critical social and emotional skills. These skills include developing empathy, managing emotions and behaviors, and, cooperating, working, and sharing with others.
In a study published last September, Dr. Gilliam found that early childhood consultation programs can be incredibly successful in reducing the challenging behaviors of young children in early child care and education settings. They are also much cheaper than many of the alternatives.
These voluntary program pair early childhood mental health consultants with child care teachers and providers upon their request. The consultants work, for a temporary period of time, with the teachers or providers and parents to address challenging behaviors. The role of the early childhood mental health consultant is to coach and support the teacher or provider so they are better equipped to intervene with a child and address the root cause of the challenging behavior.
Lawmakers will consider a bill to explore implementing a statewide, voluntary early childhood consultation program in Maine within the next month. In the meantime, some communities have already begun exploring ways to improve social emotional learning and development in their young children. Check out our previous profiles on the ECCO program at Caring Community Collaborative in Washington County and Portland Defending Childhood in Portland’s public schools.
The next meeting of the Maine Children’s Caucus will feature the release of the 2017 Maine KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Maine Children’s Alliance.