Jan. 19, 2007
By Anita Martin
You shift at your desk. The teacher writes on the chalkboard. Shouts drift up from the playground outside. A bird rests on the window, jerks its head about then flies away. The chalk squeaks. Your leg won't stop bouncing under the desk. Suddenly, the teacher calls on you for the answer, but you haven't even caught the question.
Children who have trouble focusing their attention face obstacles to learning, says Kristy Walter, special education supervisor for the Logan-Hocking School District. "Sometimes they decide it's better to be bad then look dumb. They act out to avoid academic tasks. This can lead to bad grades and truancy, even dropping out."
Helping these students before it's too late is the goal of Ohio University's Youth Experiencing Success in Schools (Y.E.S.S.) program. Y.E.S.S. brings teachers, students and parents together to build a school-based community of support for young children in Southeast Ohio in need of behavioral intervention.
It seems to be working. After a nationwide hunt for innovative practices, the Annapolis Coalition on the Behavioral Health Workforce identified Y.E.S.S. as the nation's top program in the area of "child, adolescent and school-based mental health." YESS will be listed as such in the Coalition's 2007 national Registry of Innovative Practices.
The root of the matter
Y.E.S.S. began as a small brain-storming session in 2001. At the time, the late Frederick Mong, juvenile probate judge of the Hocking County Common Pleas Court, noticed that students were appearing before him at increasingly younger ages, and that many of their troubles resulted from inattention and hyperactivity.
"Judge Mong contacted the chair of our department," says Julie Owens, an assistant professor of psychology at OU, and director of the Y.E.S.S. program. "He said: 'Look, I know probation isn't a treatment for ADHD. Do you have any programs that could help?'"
Over the next year, Owens, Mong and Walter put their heads together with local professionals. Meanwhile Owens, a specialist in child intervention design and outcome evaluation, drew upon leading evidence-based clinical practices for the treatment of ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. From these meetings, two needs emerged. The first: more intensive behavioral interventions in the classroom.
It was the notion of training clinical psychologists to take evidence-based practices out of the clinic and into the schools that attracted national attention. The Y.E.S.S. program won its reputation for innovation by pioneering this training approach and, in so doing, testing those practices in a real-world setting.
The second need Owens and her team identified was more links between home and school. "Children with special needs are a part of so many systems: the education system, the medical system, the home," Owens says. "No one resource can address all of these needs from all angles."
Owens recruited graduate students of clinical psychology and social work to serve as Y.E.S.S. clinicians. Their charge: implement school-based intervention for children with a recognized need, as well as teacher consultation, supportive parenting sessions and daily report cards.
-- Watch for part two next week
Anita Martin formerly worked in the College of Arts and Science's dean's office.