A substantial number of students are placed in self-contained special education classrooms because their behavior interferes with their academic functioning in the general education classroom. Unfortunately, these self-contained classrooms often fail in their goal to reduce behavior problems and increase academic success and in fact even may be iatrogenic, because many teachers in these classrooms have not received the necessary training to effectively manage these students'severe problem behavior and their wide range of academic needs. In addition, there often is little coordination between special education and general education classrooms, which impedes students'reintegration into the mainstream. The goal of the proposed project is to evaluate the effects of a two-year multi-component mental health and academic intervention program on a sample of 144 1st- thru 3rd-grade students in special education self-contained behavioral (SCB) classrooms. The program will be evaluated with regard to (a) improving students'mental health, social skills, and academic functioning;(b) reducing maladaptive student attitudes and beliefs;and (c) facilitating students'placement into the least restrictive educational setting. The RECAP Mental Health + Academic Program includes multiple service components: (a) the RECAP classroom mental health curriculum, which develops students'behavioral and social skills using (a1) classroom lessons and (a2) positive classroom behavior management strategies applied by the teacher, with (a3) in-classroom teacher consultation on implementation provided by a program consultant;(b) individualized reading intervention, provided in small student groups;(c) RECAP training in small student groups;and (d) a RECAP parent group. The RECAP classroom mental health curriculum also will be implemented in the general education classrooms into which these special education students are mainstreamed, to facilitate general education teachers'preparation to effectively assist these students'reintegration. A secondary project objective is to evaluate the effects of the RECAP classroom mental health curriculum on 192 high-risk students in these general education classrooms where the RECAP classroom program is already being implemented. After an initial start-up year, two cohorts of participants will be recruited from the special education and general education classrooms. Matched pairs of schools will be randomly assigned to the intervention or a comparison condition that receives services as usual. Child outcomes will be evaluated using behavioral observation, academic testing, classroom time logs, and teacher-, parent-, and child-reports of psychopathology, social skills, and maladaptive attitudes and beliefs.

Public Health Relevance

Many students with serious emotional and/or behavioral problems are placed in self-contained behavioral (SCB) classrooms that are characterized by limited instruction, heightened behavioral disruption, and maladaptive peer processes. The multi-component RECAP Mental Health + Academic Program represents a comprehensive program with a combined universal and prescriptive approach that (a) simultaneously addresses these students'emotional, behavioral, and academic needs, by focusing on common needs at the classroom level and on unique needs with individualized interventions;and that (b) facilitates their transition to the general education classroom. Given the expense of maintaining a student in a SCB classroom, the program's ability to reintegrate students into the mainstream educational setting ultimately should help to reduce costs, as well as improve students'outcomes.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Mental Health Services in Non-Specialty Settings (SRNS)
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Sherrill, Joel
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Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Schools of Education
United States
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