Children in poverty face a disproportionate risk of exposure to trauma such as lack of resources, witnessing disturbing events in the home, or family endangerment due to mental illness or substance abuse. This trauma often causes high levels of stress, which affect children’s brains and can interfere with their ability to learn. Therefore, Small Steps students are particularly at risk for developmental and emotional delays.
In 2000, as a result of a collaboration with Texas Children’s Hospital, Small Steps implemented an approach to early childhood education called SET (Social Emotional Tools) for Life©, created by Michelle M. Forrester, PhD. SET for Life provides our students with essential skills necessary to succeed, including self-expression, cooperation, empathy, and resilience. The approach promotes pro-social behavior (including communication and play); reduces disruptive behaviors in the classroom; encourages positive, responsive adult-child relationships; and increases emotional awareness among young children. Our SET Program Specialists meet the needs of our students through direct intervention and classroom support. Additionally, the SET team assists our families with community referrals, crisis intervention services, and the transition to public school.
SET Program Specialists provide:
- Direct clinical services: individual therapy, play groups, and/or parent-child therapy
- Psychoeducation/training to teachers, staff, parents, and volunteers in SET for Life and relevant child development practices
- Classroom support to teachers and students
- Observation of teachers to provide feedback about using SET for Life in the classroom and using trauma-informed practices in teaching
- Ongoing consultation with teachers and staff to meet individual student needs and to address possible needs for neuropsychological assessment and/or intervention
- Assistance for families with crisis intervention services, community referrals, and support for best family practices