Program

Jul 27, 2012

OVERVIEW

The Al’s Pals: Kids Making Healthy Choices program was developed in response to earlier research on resiliency factors for at-risk children.  The program aims to enhance the resiliency of impoverished or at-risk children ages 3-8 by reducing risk factors and increasing protective factors.  Thirty seven elementary school classrooms were randomly assigned in a study during the 1996-1997 school year to receive the Al’s Pals curriculum or be in a control group.  The study found that after receiving the intervention, children in the intervention group had better developed social-emotional competence and coping skills than the control group.  Likewise, children in the intervention also exhibited fewer problem behaviors in the classroom.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Impoverished or at-risk students in preschool or early elementary school

Al’s Pals: Kids Making Healthy Choices is an early intervention program that aims to develop resiliency in at-risk students.  This is a research-based intervention with a classroom curriculum and companion parent education materials.  The curriculum was developed by an inter-disciplinary team of experts.  The program’s two main goals are to develop the child’s social-emotional competence and decrease the risk factor of early aggressive behavior.  Classroom sessions in the program are interactive in nature and include puppet-led discussion, brainstorming, role-play, guided creative play, music, reading, art, and movement activities. Sessions focused on prosocial behavior, making safe and healthy choices, and social-emotional competence. Sessions are short (15-20 minutes) and are taught twice weekly for 23 weeks by elementary school teachers.  Teachers in the program also receive 2 days of training sessions, prior to teaching the program, which focus on risk and protective factors, prevention principles, and teaching to foster resilience.  Parents also receive 14 letters which explain what their child is learning in the program and how to reinforce what the child is learning in the home environment.

The curriculum kit for one classroom costs $685. Evaluation services are also available at the cost of $300 per classroom for at least four classrooms. Training costs depend on where the training is held.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Lynch, K. B., Geller, S. R., & Schmidt, M. G. (2004).  Multi-year evaluation of the effectiveness of a resilience-based prevention program for young children.  The Journal of Primary Prevention, 24, 335-353.

Evaluated population: A total of 37 elementary school classrooms from Lansing, Michigan participated in the evaluation.  The total number of students enrolled was 399, with 218 receiving the intervention. Children were between 3 and 4 years old, with an average age of 4.  The sample was approximately 50 percent Caucasian, 25 percent African-American, and 25 percent children of another ethnicity including Hispanic and bi-racial. Half of the intervention sample was male, and slightly over half (52%) of the control sample was male.

Approach: The 37 classrooms selected were deemed comparable by the local Head Start program director.  Of the 37 original classrooms, 33 provided full data for the study.  These classrooms were randomly assigned to either the intervention condition (17 classrooms) or the control group (16 classrooms). Tools to monitor implementation fidelity were developed.  Researchers collected data on pre-test measures in the fall and post-test measures in the spring on teacher reported behavior ratings and coping skills of the students.

Results:  Classrooms of children in the intervention group received higher scores of teacher-rated child behavior than children in the control group.  Classrooms in the intervention group received lower teacher-reported problem behavior scores for behaviors including self-centered/explosiveness, paying attention, antisocial/aggressive, social withdrawal, and anxiety when compared with the control group.  The intervention had small impacts on measures of positive coping and “distract/avoid” methods of coping.  No impacts of the intervention were found for negative coping behaviors (venting and aggression), cooperation skills, or interaction skills.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

Website: http://www.wingspanworks.com/educational_programs/

Contact Information

Kathleen Bodisch Lynch

Partnership for People with Disabilities

Virginia Commonwealth University

700 East Franklin St, 10th floor

PO Box 843020

Richmond, VA   23284

kblynch@vcu.edu

References

Lynch, K. B., Geller, S. R., & Schmidt, M. G. (2004).  Multi-year evaluation of the effectiveness of a resilience-based prevention program for young children.  The Journal of Primary Prevention, 24, 335-353.

KEYWORDS: Aggression, Children, Conduct/Disruptive Disorders, Elementary, High-Risk, White/Caucasian, Black/African American, Kindergarten, Preschool, School-based, Life skills, manual, cost, Males and Females

Program information last updated 7/27/12.