Innovative plan to tackle behavioural issues at school

A “world-first school-based clinic” designed to improve the behaviour of disruptive children is about to open in Macarthur.

The program, housed at Ingleburn Public School, will see parents enter a hub with their kids and receive ‘live coaching’ from a therapist.

“The therapist stands behind a one-way mirror in an observation room and watches the parent and the child play together,” principal Graeme Green said.

“The therapist coaches the parent by speaking into a microphone that connects to a wireless earpiece that the parent wears.

“This way, the parent can hear the child and the therapist at the same time, but the child doesn’t get distracted by the presence or voice of the therapist.”

The innovative program can reach a multitude of kids next year, with four more schools (Macquarie Fields Public School, Sackville Street Public School, Warwick Farm Public School and Robert Townson Public School) and Campbelltown Community Preschool already on board to take part.

The Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) sessions will help the therapist understand why the child is engaging in disruptive behaviour and how best to work through it.

Parents will be provided strategies for improving behaviour, which can then be mirrored at school.

“Teachers will know exactly the kinds of behaviour management strategies that parents are using at home, which means that teachers can use similar strategies in the classroom,” Mr Green said.

“When behaviours are managed consistently at home and school, changes in those behaviours happen more quickly and effectively.

“Teachers will get the opportunity to work directly with parents to manage the child’s behaviour, which helps with parent-teacher bonding.

“It also means that parents feel supported by the school and are more likely to become involved in school events and activities.”

Mr Green said University of New South Wales associate professor Eva Kimonis approached the school to establish the clinic.

“Our overall goal is to empower parents and teachers to support children with emotional difficulties and disruptive behaviours to learn new behaviours,” Mr Green said.

“This will improve their social and academic outcomes and empower them to lead happy, healthy and confident lives.

“This program aims to strengthen parent, school and teacher partnerships and will allow them to access free, tailored PCIT intervention.”

Mr Green said teachers, parents and carers could refer students to the PCIT program and, after referral and screening, the parent and child would attend the clinic over a period of 14-21 weeks.

Childcare for younger siblings could also be provided.

“We are aiming to support at risk students from across the five schools and preschool in the first year,” Mr Green said.

“We are hoping to expend this project to many more schools and students in future years.

“PCIT will not only transform the lives of children undertaking the program but significantly impact the lives of the parents and community.”

Mr Green hopes the clinic will open in early 2019 for at least one or two days a week.

With the appropriate funding and support, the hub could be expanded to five days a week.