Life Skills Program

23 Mar

My son is in the 6th grade. They have a new program run by a local health system organization. It is a life skills education curriculum. It receives part of its funding from the Illinois Department of Human Services Bureau of Community Based and Primary Prevention Substance Abuse Prevention Program. This means that our tax dollars help fund this program. From what I can gather, they send trained personnel (“Prevention Specialists”) into the classrooms to talk with the students. The curriculum is based on “guidelines recommended by the Illinois Department of Human Services. They send home “parent information sheets that coordinate with the classroom lessons.” Unfortunately, the information sheets give very little information. I called and talked to the coordinator requesting a copy of the curriculum, goals, and objectives. So far I have only received copies of the goals and objectives. They say they are unable to release copies of the curriculum because it is copyrighted. This however makes no sense if they own the copyrights to their own curriculum. They claim that they want the parents to be informed and that parents should be involved, however, they will not go so far as to let the parents have ready and easy access to what they are teaching. The coordinator did say that I could schedule an appointment and come into the office and read the curriculum there. With 4 kids, I have as yet been unable to schedule a time to do this. If anybody has had a chance to read this kind of curriculum I would welcome a response.

The lessons are as follows: Communication, Responding to Others, Decision-Making, Stress and Anger Management, Relationships, Social Norming and Peer Pressure, ATOD Facts and Refusal Skills, and Media Literacy.

The goals and objectives that I have received do not state clearly how they plan to evaluate the students. The objectives list such things as Students will be able to: “Demonstrate knowledge of skills used when actively listening.”; “Demonstrate the brainstorming process in decision-making.”; and “Identify situations that stimulate stress and anger responses.”

The parent handouts include a brief overview of the topic. They also include action steps for you to follow. “Make rules, explain the need for them, and enforce them consistently to reduce stress for everybody.”; “Ask open-ended questions by avoiding questions that have simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers.” These are pretty rudimentary and most parents I know already follow these steps in some way. They do not, however give any practical steps to follow for any parents in any type of crisis situation, for example when your child is withdrawn or avoids communication.

In their initial letter they state that “When parents receive frequent and effective communication from the school or program their child is in, their involvement increases.” From my experience with this program I have a different definition of what makes for “effective communication”.

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