A tiered intervention framework aims at prevention of serious problems through consistent use of best practices or universal supports. If these prove inadequate for some students, additional interventions are put in place until the desired outcomes are achieved.
Most teachers are familiar with tiered intervention. Some schools use a tiered approach to organize a continuum of school-wide behavioral supports. Schools implementing the Response to Intervention (RTI) model use tiered service delivery to improve academic outcomes. Recently, President Obama and other recommended using a tiered approach to provide mental health services to children and youth (Now Is the Time, January 16, 2013).
At first glance, this sounds like a good idea. But here’s the rub. Implementation of universal supports requires agreement about what these supports are and how they are best provided. It’s a team approach. So before we adopt it as a framework for mental health services, let’s think about what’s involved. What can we agree are universal supports that can promote children’s mental health? Here’s one to consider:
Easy Access to Emotionally Available Adults
Abraham Maslow says that meeting children’s physiological needs is fundamental to promoting their well-being. Interesting in light of recent research indicating that persistent absence of responsive care disrupts the developing brain (Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, 2012). Inadequate attachment relationships in early childhood limit children’s capacity to regulate their feelings and behavior.
These early deficits can be overcome when adults join with children to help them acquire age-appropriate self-regulation. This may seem easy, but in fact, adults are often surprised by the ability of neglected or abused children to “push their buttons” or engage them in endless power struggles. Teachers and other school personnel will need training and support to manage the double struggle of remaining objective as they de-escalate provocative behaviors.
For more information on managing the “double struggle” see:
Reclaiming Lost Children and Youth
Volume 17, Number 1 Spring 2008
Shahbazian, Mary & Patricia Taglione Life Space Crisis Intervention: Double Struggle, page 26.