As students around the country reentered the classrooms in the fall of 2020, it quickly became clear to educators that the children needed extra support with their educational and emotional stability.
Many of our students in The Learning Center were also exhibiting stress-related behaviors including increased anxiety, irritability/anger, depression, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, loneliness, and general nervousness in older children.
Third Street Alliance mobilized quickly to respond to this need by launching the agency’s Behavioral Health Initiative, embedding a behavioral health specialist in The Learning Center to assist classroom teachers to identify and address challenging classroom behaviors and help parents understand and access outside support for their children when necessary.
We were able to respond so quickly, in part because the Behavioral Health Initiative was the Fund-a-Need for Bistro 2021, and, thanks to generous support from our community, we raised more than $16,000 in one night to help fund the program.
Thanks to you, our community, and community partners, our students now receive social-emotional support in the classroom with the addition of the center’s new early learning behavioral specialist, Michelle Petro.
“In less than a year, I have seen young children learn to take a deep breath when they’re frustrated or overwhelmed and begin doing it on their own without prompting. I have seen children begin sharing with others who have struggled in the past,” Michelle said. “These are huge skills for these young children, and they will continue to benefit from them as they grow older and face new challenges.”
Michelle’s work is focused on helping teachers assess and develop positive interventions to behavioral challenges. She also works to build relationships and encourage open dialogue with parents. When parents work together with our staff to identify challenges that a student is facing, we have a better chance of finding a solution to support the child. Michelle helps to refer parents to supportive services, such as Easterseals or the IU-20. In total, 17 students were referred for additional support services in the past year, and the majority are still receiving services.
Michelle enjoys building relationships with each student and being a friendly face in the classroom each day.
“Building a relationship of trust is one of the major keys in being able to assist a child in de-escalation and redirection,” she said.
Once a student is calm, Michelle is able to teach the student to engage in positive behaviors including self-soothing methods, such as breathing techniques, and talks with them about what they can do the next time they feel “big emotions,” such as anger, sadness, or frustration.
As our Behavioral Health program moves into its second year, we continue helping our community’s youngest members learn developmentally appropriate coping mechanisms and resiliency.
Through your generous support for this initiative, you are providing opportunities for building self-esteem, empathy, self-regulation and helping our students gain tools that will benefit them for the remainder of their lives.
Additional Funding for this Vital Endeavor Includes:
Easton Rotary Foundation
Easton Kiwanis Foundation
Will R. Beitel Children’s Community Foundation
The Shafer Family Charitable Foundation
Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler Foundation