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Project Prevent: Screening and Intervening to Prevent the Development of Learning and Behavior Problems

Abstract

Students with emotional disturbances (ED) are some of the most difficult-to-teach students. These youngsters are characterized by aggressive, coercive behaviors, deficient social skills, and academic deficiencies - particularly in the area of reading. These behavior patterns become increasingly stable, making these students' less amendable to intervention efforts over time. Without intervention, these students go on to experience a host of negative outcomes within and beyond the school setting (e.g., school failure, impaired relationships, dropout, unemployment, and mental health services; Walker & Severson, 2002).

If the goal is to prevent children with emotional and behavioral problems from developing emotional disturbances that require the provision of special education and related services as specified in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 1997), it is essential that children at risk for emotional disturbances be identified as early as possible so that proper interventions can be designed, implemented, and evaluated when these youngsters are more responsive to intervention efforts (Kazdin, 1993). As such, Project Prevent addresses the following objectives: (a) determine the extent to which empirically validated screening procedures detect the same type of students; (b) examine the academic, social, and behavioral characteristics of students identified by recommended screening procedures; (c) explore the successes and challenges of implementing screening procedures in high performing and at-risk schools; (d) identify the extent to which these at-risk youth respond to primary interventions; (e) examine the effectiveness of secondary academic, behavioral, and combined interventions relative to controls for preventing the development of ED; and (f) identify the characteristics of students who are, and are not, responsive to secondary interventions.