The goal of a mental health consultant who works in early childhood settings is the promotion of mental wellness and encouragement of positive social relations in children.
A 2005 study by Yale University’s Ed Ziglar Center in Child development found that 6.7 children per 1000 are expelled from preschool every year, three times the rate of expulsions in kindergarten through high school. However, preschool teachers who have access to mental health consultants are about half as likely to expel a child compares with teachers who lack such support based on a report that looked at 3,898 preschool classes in 40 states.
Another recent study in 89 classes conducted by the Tulane University’s Institute of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health link the mental health help offered there to improved behavior and learning and more cheerful classroom climates.
The mental health consultant, in early childhood or preschool settings, helps small children to learn the lifelong social and emotional skills they need. Children have to learn how to get along with people, to respond to them appropriately, and to acquire an awareness of how their actions affect other people and how other people’s actions affect them. To be more specific, they need to learn cooperation, self-control, confidence, independence, curiosity, empathy, and communication. Also preschoolers need to learn how to inhibit impulsive behavior, become thoughtful, interpersonally sensitive, goal-oriented, respectful of other’s space and belongings, and to develop friendships.
In addition, the mental health consultant identifies children with special needs which have often resulted from violence, abuse, prenatal substance abuse, losses due to incarcerations or death, or living in foster homes or with multiple care givers. Such experiences often has significantly affected the lives of children who display severe behavioral and emotional problems such as learning disabilities, speech or language disorders, emotional or behavioral disorders.
The mental health consultant assists with parent support issues as well, including stress related matters, finding resources, acquiring job training, etc. Parent workshops and personal consultations with parents are essential in helping parents to implement some of the learning activities the youngsters are experiencing in the classroom as well as to address concerns parents may have relative to personal parenting issues and needs.
In the course of a work day, besides scheduled meetings with parents, the mental health consultant carries out classroom observations for assessment and evaluation, insure supportive responses in meeting the children’s needs and conduct scheduled staff development workshops focused on strategies for dealing with behavioral and attention problems.