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UCLA School Mental Health Project
Center for Mental Health in Schools
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Continuing Education: Unit I

Addressing Barriers to Learning
New Directions for Mental Health in Schools

Coda: A Wide range of Responses
for a Wide Range of Problems


Sections - Click below
Section A.
Introductory Overview
Section B.
The Need to Enhance Healthy Development and Address Barriers to Learning
Section C.
Addressing the Need: Moving Toward a Comprehensive Approach
A Wide range of Responses
for a Wide Range of Problems

Move on to:
Unit II

Return to:
Contents of All Three Units
SMHP Home Page

Most schools and many community services use weak models in addressing barriers to learning. The primary emphasis in too many instances is to refer individuals to specific professionals, and this usually results in narrow and piecemeal approaches to complex problems, many of which find their roots in a student's environment. Overreliance on referrals to professionals also inevitably overwhelms limited, public-funded resources.

More ideal models emphasize the need for a comprehensive continuum of community and school interventions to ameliorate complex problems. Such a continuum ranges from programs for primary prevention and early-age intervention -- through those to treat problems soon after onset -- to treatments for severe and chronic problems. Thus, they emphasize that promoting healthy development and positive functioning are one of the best ways to prevent many problems, and they also address specific problems experienced by youth and their families.

To be most effective, such interventions are developmentally-oriented (i.e., beginning before birth and progressing through each level of schooling and beyond) and offer a range of activity -- some focused on individuals and some on environmental systems. Included are programs designed to promote and maintain safety at home and at school, programs to promote and maintain physical/mental health, preschool and early school adjustment programs, programs to improve and augment social and academic supports, programs to intervene prior to referral for intensive treatments, and intensive treatment programs. It should be evident that such a continuum requires meshing together school and community resources and, given the scope of activity, effectiveness and efficiency require formal and long-lasting interprogram collaboration.

One implication of all this is formulated as the proposition that a comprehensive, integrated component to address barriers to learning and enhance healthy development is essential in helping the many who are not benefitting satisfactorily from formal education. Schools and communities are beginning to sense the need to adopt such a perspective. As they do, we will become more effective in our efforts to enable schools to teach, students to learn, families to function constructively, and communities to serve and protect. Such efforts will no longer be treated as supplementary ("add-ons") that are carried out as fragmented and categorical services; indeed, they will be seen as a primary, essential, and integrated component of school reform and restructuring.

This is the end of Unit I.