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Pyramid Plus center will promote social emotional development in kids

Research has found that up to 40 percent of young children exhibit serious behavioral challenges that can result in a tremendous risk of school failure early on, followed by adult lives characterized by violence, abuse, loneliness and anxiety. Studies also indicate that less than 50 percent of preschoolers with disabilities are enrolled in typical early childhood settings.

Pyramid Plus: The Colorado Center for Social Emotional Competence and Inclusion has been created to address these issues in Colorado. The center is newly funded and is housed and operating out of the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver.

The program's project coordinator said there is increasing evidence that shows young children who exhibit challenging behavior are more likely to experience peer rejection and negative family and teacher interactions.

"Say you have a student who is mature enough to sit, listen, follow directions and be respectful while there may be another student who can't sit still — the child is throwing things, interrupting the teacher and disrupting the learning environment of the entire classroom," said Abby English, Pyramid Plus project coordinator at UC Denver. "Clearly, the more emotionally and socially developed a child is, the better they are equipped to learn."

The goal of Pyramid Plus is to increase the use of evidence-based, social emotional and inclusive practices in early care and educational settings, including family home care.

Pyramid Plus will build the statewide competence of personnel through a network of certified trainers and program coaches. These leaders then may broaden the reach of the approach by visiting early care and educational settings throughout Colorado where they can train and coach employees who teach children. All certification candidates are required to commit to extensive training that, when completed, will make them highly qualified in the approaches as well as making the program they are working for more effective with families and children.

"Growing a network of certified trainers and coaches is like building roads from a central hub or city," said Barbara Smith, director of the Pyramid Plus program and research professor at UC Denver's School of Education and Human Development. "First you might have 20 roads, which then grows to 40, then 80, and keeps getting bigger and reaches more parts of the state. It's the same concept for certified trainers and coaches. Our goal is to have certified trainers and coaches available to every early care and education program throughout Colorado."

The vision for Pyramid Plus is to build the capability of early care and education professionals statewide to use these evidence-based approaches, thereby improving children's social emotional competence and opportunities for inclusion.

This vision involves statewide cooperation in promoting the model. Besides partners and funders such as the Colorado Department of Human Services' Division of Child Care, Division of Behavioral Health and the Division for Developmental Disabilities/Early Intervention, Pyramid Plus also has a team of other state agencies and programs supporting its work.

For more information about the Pyramid Plus program, or to sign up for the Pyramid Plus e-mail newsletter, please visit www.pyramidplus.org.

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