With an increase in the mental and behavioral health needs of children, Central Elementary has partnered with Iowa State University in a study that is looking at various levels of behavioral support both within the school and in collaboration with outside services and parent involvement. A core component of this study includes an evidence-based therapy called Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT).

PCIT was designed specifically for caregivers and children ages 2-7 who are experiencing difficult or challenging behavior and is widely used as the most effective treatment for challenging behaviors. It is now also used to develop a variety of skills beyond behavioral issues. It can help in language development, sustaining attention, increasing attachment, and increasing parent confidence in discipline procedures.

As part of the study, some parents were offered PCIT from trained therapists from Central Iowa Psychological Services. This involved parents receiving weekly, one-hour sessions with a certified PCIT coach who guides them through a bug-in-the-ear device as they play and interact with their child. During the first phase of therapy, parents are coached on using a specific set of skills called the PRIDE skills to interact with their child. During the second phase of PCIT, parents learn a specific procedure for discipline and are coached in how to handle when their child displays an unwanted behavior. The length of therapy can depend on the needs of the family. Through the study, 16 weeks is used as an average treatment time.

Treatment results can show many improvements, including an increase in compliance to adult requests, attention span, self-esteem, security/attachment, decrease in tantrums, defiance, and aggressive behaviors. Skills that parents are taught and coached in therapy are able to be continued and utilized in their home. Parents who have completed PCIT have shared that they found the therapy to be effective and have seen a positive change in their child’s behavior.

Other core components of the study include Classroom Check Up, an evidence based classroom and behavior management tool, and TCIT, or Teacher-Child Interaction Training, both of which complement PCIT skills and are being utilized to help decrease problematic behaviors in the classroom and building. Central has limited openings left for PCIT this year, but a community team is working on ways to sustain and strengthen these programs and opportunities after the study with ISU is completed. If you’d like to learn more about PCIT and the opportunity for Central families to participate, contact Emily Kruse, ekruse@nevadacubs.org.