Problem Children Who Can Create Learning Difficulties Get Assistance

 
by Ellyce Field, The Detroit News, January 22, 2004

Installing “kindergarten cops” in all kindergarten classrooms is not Donna Lackie’s idea of the best way to handle children who hit, scream, spit or generally act disruptive.

“Believe it or not, that’s one method of handling disruptive children in Texas classrooms,” says Lackie, early childhood consultant with Oakland Schools.

Instead, Lackie and her team of early childhood specialists — pediatricians, teachers and community resources — provide assessment and preventative interventions for disruptive children, their families and their preschool settings before those children reach kindergarten.

The free program called Project Challenge began in 1998. “Teachers and day-care centers were calling and saying ‘We’ve got a child and don’t know what to do!’ We wondered what the scope of the problem was and how we could best address it,” Lackie says.

Many other counties in Michigan, as well as across the country, started looking at how to help small children with behavior challenges.

“We found that approximately 8-10 percent of preschool children across the country exhibited disruptive behaviors that would lead to compromised learning and development once the child entered school,” she says. “The children cut across all socio-economic levels and all settings — informal home day-care, all the way to very specific special-education classrooms.”

Lackie and her team receive referrals from parents, teachers, day-care workers or pediatricians. They look for clues in the child’s developmental, physical, regulatory (sleeping or eating), sensory growth, temperament and personality. They also assess their home and school setting. After learning as much as possible about the child, they offer suggestions for reducing the disruptive behaviors with very individualized strategies.

“The bottom line is catching children early and giving them a chance to be successful in school,” Lackie says.

About the program

What: Project Challenge.

Where: Open to all preschoolers in Oakland County. Counterpart programs are also available in Macomb and Wayne County. Call for a referral, (248) 209-2229.

When: Support, consultation and intervention is offered to children, parents, families, teachers and preschool programs.

Admission: Free.

Information: If a child you know can benefit from this program, call Donna Lackie at Oakland Schools, (248) 209-2229.