First Step to Success

Program Goal/Target Population

First Step to Success is an early intervention program designed to identify children with antisocial behavior and introduce adaptive behavioral strategies to prevent antisocial behavior in school. The program has both school and home components.



The primary goal of the program is to divert antisocial kindergartners from an antisocial behavior pattern during their subsequent school careers and to develop in them the competencies needed to build effective teacher- and peer-related, social–behavioral adjustments.



Program Theory

The program targets at-risk kindergartners who show the early signs of an antisocial pattern of behavior (e.g., aggression, oppositional–defiant behavior, severe fits of temper, victimization of others). The intervention is based on the early-starter model of the development of antisocial behavior. Signs of conduct problems can be detected as early as preschool. Many children bring a pattern of antisocial behavior with them from home when they enter school. This early pattern can indicate the beginning of a stable pattern of maladaptive behavior that predicts more severe problems later on when the youths are less amenable to treatment. More severe problems include issues such as peer rejection, school dropout, and delinquency.



Program Components

First Step to Success consists of three interconnected modules: 1) proactive, universal screening of all kindergarteners, 2) school intervention involving the teacher, peers, and the target child that teaches adaptive behavior patterns, and 3) parent/caregiver training and involvement to support the child’s school adjustment. The intervention is implemented over 3 months. Components are delivered in both school and home settings.



A key part of the program is the behavioral coaches who act as caseworkers for two to three students and are responsible for implementing and coordinating the school and home components of the intervention. Coaches are trained through lectures, videotaped demonstrations, role-playing, skill practice/feedback sessions, materials, and self-evaluation. Training, monitoring, and supervision processes are implemented to build fidelity.



The facilitative strategy of the program relies on having the coach work with teachers and parents to give them the skills to teach students replacement behaviors and reward students when those behaviors are used appropriately and consistently. Strategies for implementation include schedules for praising and awarding points, prepared scripts, daily task lists, and guidelines for application. Students are taught specific skills and behaviors to use in place of inappropriate behaviors they have used in the past. More specifically, during the school day, the coach or teacher gives the First Step to Success student visual cues (i.e., a green or red card) to indicate whether or not he or she is on task and using appropriate behaviors. Throughout the day, the student accrues points toward his or her behavioral goal. If the student makes the daily goals, he or she gets to choose an enjoyable activity the whole class can do and appreciate.



Each evening, parents receive feedback about how their child’s day went. Parents are trained through six weekly meetings with the coach, and they are encouraged to reward the student’s positive behavior by spending some extra time with their child at an activity, such as playing a game or taking a walk together.

Intervention ID
296
Ages

5 to 8

Rating
Effective
Outcomes

Study 1

Adaptive Behavior


As measured by the Early Screening Project, Walker and colleagues (1998) found that treatment students experienced statistically significant improvements in adaptive behavior (p<.001).



Maladaptive Behavior

Postintervention, students who participated in First Step to Success were rated by teachers as significantly less maladaptive (p<.001), compared with control students.



Aggression

Postintervention, students who participated in First Step to Success were rated by teachers as significantly less aggressive (p<.001), compared with control students.



Withdrawn Behavior

There were no differences between groups on teacher ratings of withdrawn behavior.



Attention to the Teacher

Observations made of the students’ appropriate attention to teachers indicated that the intervention subjects spent more time engaged academically (p<.05) than control students did.



Study 2

Adaptive Behavior


Walker and colleagues (2005) found that treatment students experienced statistically significant improvements in adaptive behavior (p<.001).



Maladaptive Behavior

Postintervention, students who participated in First Step to Success were rated by teachers as significantly less maladaptive (p<.001), compared with control students.



Aggression

Postintervention, students who participated in First Step to Success were rated by teachers as significantly less aggressive (p<.001), compared with control students.



Attention to the Teacher

Observations made of the students’ appropriate attention to teachers indicated that the intervention subjects spent more time engaged academically (p<.001) than control students did.



Study 3

Problem Behavior


According to teacher-reported ratings, intervention students showed significant overall gains, compared with students in the control condition (p<.001). According to parent-reported ratings, intervention students showed significant overall gains, compared with students in the comparison condition (p<.001). The intervention had a moderate effect on reducing problem behavior symptoms.



Functional Impairment

According to teacher-reported ratings, intervention students showed significant overall gains in the functional impairment domain, compared with students in the control condition (p<.001). According to parent-reported ratings, intervention students showed significant overall gains, compared with students in the comparison condition (p<.001). The intervention had a moderate effect on improving adaptive behaviors and social skills, according to teacher reports, and a moderate effect on improving social skills, according to parent reports.



Academic Skills

The intervention groups showed significant gains on the Academic Competence subscale of the Social Skills Rating System and the academic engaged time measure, compared with the control group. However, the comparison group showed significantly greater improvements on the Woodcock–Johnson III Letter–Word Identification subtest, compared with the intervention group. There were no differences between the groups in terms of gains in oral reading fluency.

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