July 20, 2007

‘Play Nicely’ program spreading across state

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Seth Scholer, M.D., left, and members of his research team: VU students, Melissa Johnson, David Whitsett and Emma Hamilton. (photo by Susan Urmy)

‘Play Nicely’ program spreading across state

“Play Nicely,” an interactive CD that helps teach the basics in managing hurtful behavior in children ages 1-7, is now being used by child care providers and teachers throughout the state.

The program was developed by Seth Scholer, M.D., director of the Early Childhood Anger Management Clinic at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

“The program focuses on one of the strongest risk factors for violence — early childhood aggression,” Scholer said. “Although the program has clear public health implications, it is becoming increasingly clear that the program also has implications in the educational arena.”

The CD provides video clips of children engaged in hurtful behavior and allows the viewer to respond to 16 different options on how to react. Once a response is selected, narration and videos provide the viewer with more information about the appropriateness of that option. The goal is to teach participants more appropriate ways to respond to hurtful behavior.

Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee received a grant from the Department of Child Services for child abuse prevention education. They used the Play Nicely program at five locations across the state and reached approximately 90 child care providers, the majority being Head Start teachers.

“The child care providers were eager to learn techniques on how to deal with children who are aggressive, and Play Nicely was a great match,” said Carla Snodgrass, director of Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee. “They were very interested and engaged in the presentation.”

In response to the trainings, Nashville's Metro Action Commission's Head Start program has purchased 20 copies of Play Nicely to use with their teachers.

The Upper East Tennessee's Human Development Agency also purchased 54 copies of Play Nicely to be used by the teachers in the area's Head Start programs and to be available for parents.

“It's great to see that people are taking an interest in Play Nicely,” Scholer said. “Feedback from the teachers who went through the training was very positive.”

More than 95 percent of teachers reported that the program made them more confident that they could respond to aggression in the classroom. Ninety percent of teachers felt that school readiness could be improved if parents viewed Play Nicely before their children started school.

“This feedback is very promising given the need for population-based programs that may eventually allow teachers to focus more on education and less on behavior management,” Scholer said.

Scholer said his research team is currently doing further studies on the program in the Children's Hospital primary care clinic, the McNeilly Center preschool and the Nurses for Newborns home visitation program.