Local educators and leaders participate in social-emotional training | Local News
As part of the STOP School Violence Prevention and Mental Health training program – developed by Kankakee City Life Director Aaron Clark and implemented by Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe – the Theraplay Institute began to organize training programs in Kankakee County in 2018.
Theraplay is a program designed for trauma-informed schools and follows the motto “Building community and connections in your school”.
The first time the program was introduced to Kankakee County, it was held at the River Valley Church and attracted 150 attendees – mostly teachers and local leaders – seeking to learn more about teaching and working with social/emotional skills.
The international program stalled locally during the pandemic and resurfaced Monday at Kankakee Community College, where many professionals from the Kankakee 111 school district — as well as coordinators from local nonprofits — participated in the first of both Theraplay sessions.
Clark was on hand to present the program and noted that “Kankakee County is the most educated community in the world. [at Theraplay].”
He introduced the presenter of the day, Kay Schieffer, specialist and certified trainer of the Theraplay group and former special education teacher. Schieffer developed what are called “sun circles” in Theraplay, which are used in classrooms with young children.
“The main goal is to make children feel safe,” she said. “Children can’t learn if they don’t feel safe.”
Program participants have tried a number of activities in which children participate in Theraplay-trained classrooms. This encouraged participants to interact and get to know each other.
Through a variety of activities that allow children to have fun, build relationships and develop social skills, Theraplay has been found to help young students “reduce confrontation or resistance” in the classroom, according to Schieffer.
The program also works with older children and adults who may have experienced trauma and may be conflicted or suspicious as a result.
“We try to build self-regulation before the difficult behaviors happen,” Schieffer said.
Theraplay is a non-clinical intervention, not a treatment, based on developmental theory. Groups are adult-led and structured; are 99% interactive and 1% talking; serve to enhance group functioning and individual learning; serve to build positive relationships and communities; and support positive sense of self, self-regulation and social skills.
The goals of the groups are to create a sense of safety, to give children the space to be excited about an activity, but to learn how to channel that excitement and form appropriate social interactions.
Theraplay is used in 40 countries and is primarily used by educators and leaders of organizations that care for children. The program is described as “a proactive, intensive, relationship-focused intervention” and is based on natural patterns of health interaction between parent and child.
When in a clinical setting (outside the classroom), parents actively participate in the program. Here, the practitioner and the parents work together.
For more information or to schedule an in-person or virtual program, visit theraplay.org.