CATCH, Santa Barbara County Education Office

What is CATCH?

Florene Bednersh: Assistant Superintendent
About 7 years ago we started working on implementing the program CATCH. We actually had two things that started us thinking about it. One was we have our staff serving preschoolers through the entire county and we would get referrals for special education and the kids would not qualify, but they were kids that were struggling, they were kids that were at risk for getting kicked out of their preschools because they were biting or kicking, or impulsive. Our teachers would come back and say, “oh this child doesn’t qualify but they need service. The teachers need help.” And then kind of parallel to that, my director of child development services also came to me and said, “Can you get me a psychologist for my program? We just don’t know what to do with some of these kids.”

There’s a big body of research actually, that kids as young at two and three can have needs such as anxiety, attention deficit, and other kids actually can show signs of depression and some emotional needs. So we knew there was a need for something to provide service for those kids. Based on all that we knew that CATCH was a good idea and a good place to go. We were actually reinforced several years later after starting CATCH in 2005. There was a big study, The Yale Child Study came out and said actually kids in preschool were being expelled three times as often as the K-12 population. Then we all got together and started brainstorming on what to call the program, it wasn’t yet called CATCH. We all met and said, “what are we doing?” and we said, “Well we are catching these kids that fall between the cracks.” So we came up with “Catch” and then we said, “No, it needs to be an acronym for something so it became Child Assistance Team Creating Hope.”

Claudia Clement: School Psychologist
Most of the children referred to CATCH seem to be aggressive little boys. I think that’s just because those are the children that get noticed as having difficulties, and they seem to present the most challenges for the preschool teachers. We also have some aggressive little girls, but we also have children who are withdrawn. We’ve had some that the teachers are concerned that they might be depressed and what us to take a look at the kids and see what we think. And then other kids have some difficulties and the teachers don’t really know what’s going on but they wonder about Autism or some other disabilities, Hyperactivity, ADHD, those kinds of things.

Florene Bednersh: Assistant Superintendent
We’ve been in existence now for almost seven years. We’ve served 176 children at 66 different preschools. We do advertising: we let preschools, pediatricians and community members know about us, any preschool-private or state funded. We’ve been in Head Starts, we’ve been in state preschools and it’s been just a really well received program.

Heidi Casper: Teacher
When other organizations in town say, “Well they really don’t meet the criteria that we have for placing these children and I’m sorry we can’t help you.” CATCH says, “No, no we have the services that they need to help this family”, not just the child, there have been services for the family as well, for me, the teacher, and for the children in general. It’s been a phenomenal program and I can’t say enough. I hope this continues in my classroom and here in Santa Barbara. It’s been really great.

The Structure of CATCH

Florene Bednersh: Assistant Superintendent
A lot of the Early Education teachers don’t get a lot of training in behavior management so sometimes it’s a simple as letting them know that a child with attention deficit can’t sit in a group for too long, you need to give them breaks. Sometimes it’s real basic things like that and teaching them that sometimes behavior is a communicative intent of some sort that they are trying to tell us something and we have to solve the mystery to figure out what that is.

Claudia Clement: School Psychologist
The whole idea of CATCH is that the teachers can learn the different strategies and can learn some things about routines and structure in their classrooms so that they can prevent behavior difficulties from occurring. Hopefully they can carry out those strategies to the other children in their class and to subsequent classes that they have because just about every preschool has at least one or more children who have behavioral challenges. We hope that what we do generalizes to other children as well in the preschools.

Florene Bednersh: Assistant Superintendent
We found the program called Second Step. It is a program that goes down to the preschool level, uses puppets, big teacher friendly picture cards with the whole scope and sequence of curriculum. It received excellent reviews by several Federal level agencies and an exemplary report by the Federal Government looking at safe and drug schools, an exemplary report by the Justice Department and also was seen as a model program by the Department of Health.

Claudia Clement: School Psychologist
We provide trainings about two to three times a year where we will train preschool teachers on Saturdays. It’s a six-hour training so that they can use the Second Step Curriculum in their classroom. The Second Step Curriculum step curriculum teaches empathy, anger management, and problem solving. It’s been a really great curriculum. It’s very teacher friendly. All of the lessons are sequential; one follows another, yet there is some repetition in it so the children have a lot of practice in learning the different concepts and doing the different activities. It’s also a great program because it works best when you have all of the teachers in the preschool doing the same curriculum, so it becomes something that all of the kids in the preschool know about, all of the teachers are using the same language in working with the children, and there are posters you can put around the school. So it’s reinforced throughout the day, everyday even though it’s usually just one lesson a week for about 20 minutes at the preschool level.

Theresa Solorzano-Moreno: CATCH Teacher
As a CATCH teacher I use the Second Step Curriculum. We use this to implement my lessons for all my children. The Second Step Curriculum has three unit lessons and it’s sequential. The first unit talks about empathy, for a child to be able to recognize his own feelings and also to be able to recognize other people’s feelings. Then we have the second unit, which talks more about anger management. In that unit we teach our children to be able to use some of our calming techniques, being able to identify if it’s a small feeling or if it’s a strong feeling, and if you have a strong feeling, what you should do. Then we have the third unit we use, which is problem solving. By this time the children are able to identify how they feel, and using some of the proactive strategies, self-calming techniques, and then what is the replacement behavior; what should the child do, using his words, maybe walking away from something that’s really getting him upset. This Second Step Curriculum is a really good program for all our children.

Heidi Casper: Teacher
The CATCH staff is very educated and the things that they have brought into the classroom have benefited all the children here. They have provided instruction for myself and presentations on Second Step in the classroom and that has been beneficial for all the children to learn about body language and reading other people’s emotions. There has been a general improvement in all the children. I see that it will be a skill they can use in their life, in the classroom and out. There have been some communication skills that were taught in my classroom that have really replaced some of the behaviors that were not appropriate for all the children, so it’s really helped them in that regard as well. Those things have changed tremendously because of this.

How Has CATCH Supported Preschools?

Jennie Martinez: Director of Preschools
Before CATCH came to us, we would have children in the classroom that, for whatever reasons, were having difficulty, they were experiencing many challenges in just trying to fit in with other preschool children, teachers were very frustrated, and just very challenged. Parents were very afraid to come to school, in fear that we would tell them that their children were not fitting in and that they could no longer come. Then fortunately about six years ago we heard of a new program called CATCH. We were thrilled and immediately started referring children to this program. We got a lot of support. We got a lot of time with professionals whose experience was in dealing with children with challenging behaviors. The services that CATCH has provided for us are many. We’ve had psychologists come in and help teachers to think of new ideas, new strategies, to help children come in and have quality experiences with other preschool children. Parents feel more comfortable coming and talking to teachers, knowing that their child is being given an opportunity to experience a positive thing that will happen to them here in the preschool.

Theresa Solorzano-Moreno: CATCH Teacher
Some of the strategies that we provide are maybe just rearrange the social, physical, and sensory environment of our children. We also provide choices for our children. If the task is too difficult we provide other adaptations to facilitate and decrease some of the aggressive behaviors.

Heidi Casper: Teacher
The CATCH program has provided some fabulous services for this child in my classroom. They have been able to come out and provide services for him where other agencies said they would not be able to help him. They have had a teacher her with him, or an assistant here working with him on a weekly basis here in the program, teaching him different skills, enabling him to work better with other children, to follow along with the classroom routines, to have a lot of self one of the things that has really worked well with him. They have introduced Second Step in the classroom as well, which is a new program for me that has benefited all the children.

Jennie Martinez: Director of Preschools
We’ve seen tremendous improvement in children’s behavior, when we have CATCH come into our program. Not just the child that is experiencing the specific behavioral challenges but the entire group. The person, whom might come in to work with a child on a weekly basis, once a week, will come and work with the entire group through the Second Step Curriculum, which is just a wonderful program.

Thoughts from a Parent

My name is Maria Canales. I am a mother of two daughters. My older daughter is seven and is autistic, my youngest daughter, Leila, is four years old and has had behavioral problems. That’s why we are asking for help from the CATCH program with Theresa.

What were your concerns about our CATCH program?

My first worries or difficulty, were that Leila was beginning to show behavioral problems at home and was imitating a lot of the bad behaviors of my older daughter and it was difficult because she thought it was normal behavior, what her sister was doing because of her disability. Then we tried to tell her what she was doing wasn’t correct. It was difficult, that’s why we had to ask for help.

What services were provided to you by the CATCH program?

Well, there were plenty of programs, but beginning with visits to daycare and getting therapy, teaching her how to take turns, showing her how a four year old should behave, especially showing how to take turns and have better behavior at home, at the store and school. That’s basically what it was.

Have you seen an improvement of Leila’s behavior at home?

Oh yes, of course. It has improved significantly. She has learned how to take turns, she is more calm, she had a strong attitude. She is much more calm, she controls her temper and she can say, “yes, ok, or this”. We have seen it and she herself will say, “We have to take turns, right mom?” We take turns at home when it comes to eating and sharing so that she knows that we have to share. It has been very good, as it also has helped my older daughter.

Have you seen an improvement in behavior from Leila at school?

Yes, also in school as well it’s better. She doesn’t fight as often. She used to like to kick doors, push her friends; she didn’t want to talk to anyone. She used to say that nobody liked her but now she is very social. She arrives and now she gives everyone hugs. She says, “I’m here!” She waits her turn, she has to wait, she is sociable, she is good in class as well as with the teacher. She is better.

How has CATCH benefitted you in all aspects?

Well, mainly because it’s a great support to my daughter. It’s a great benefit that she has improved. It has been in a short….I think less than a year and it has benefited her from the example that she receives from her therapies that you have set for her. She brings it home and shares it with her sister and also has helped her sister. It has been a great benefit for us in the family, especially for us as parents. She is more calm, it benefits the whole family.

10474 Mather Boulevard | P.O. Box 269003 | Sacramento, CA 95826 | 916-228-2388 |
Under the direction of and funded by the California Department of Education, Special Education Division
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