The Skill Card Program – A Guide for Teachers & Parents By Dr. Charles Emmrys Ph.D. L. Psych

What Is the Skill Card Program?

The skill card program is a behavioural strategy designed for children between the ages of 6 and 11 who are having important difficulties at home or in school. This approach is appropriate for use by parents, teachers, teacher-aids, or other caregivers involved with the child. The program consists in helping the child correct or improve specific problem behaviours through systematic and consistent monitoring and by the giving of small timely rewards.

The approach is effective for those children with severe problems in the area of impulsivity, inattention and explosive bouts of anger. It is also effective for children who refuse to participate in classroom activities by being overly passive or disruptive. These are the children that are typically described by many as out of control and unresponsive, or as slackers and work avoiders. Children with a diagnosis of A.D.H.D., A.D.D., Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or Impulse Control Problem are particularly good candidates for this approach.

The skill card program is reward oriented and like most reward programs, is especially effective as a strategy to start new behaviour. This means that it is best used as a means of getting a child to do something positive such as his homework at night, his math during math period, or to socialise appropriately on the school yard. It is a less effective strategy for stopping behaviour such as teasing or fighting, although it can be used for this purpose. Punishment strategies are often seen as more effective for stopping behaviour.

Where Does This Idea Come From?

The skill card program is a behavioural training intervention that has been adapted for use both at home and at school. Behaviour therapies are based on the concept that if you give a reward for a certain activity, the child will tend to do that activity again in the future. The difference between behavioural programs and simply rewarding kids for being good is that the behaviour program tries to be more structured and more specific about what is to be rewarded and how it will be rewarded.

The skill card program is also inspired by the social skills movement that has become so important in the last 20 years in America. This approach is built on the notion that a child's poor functioning is not a premeditated attempt on their part to make adult lives miserable. It is rather symptomatic of the child's failure to learn appropriate ways of functioning in his peer group, in class and with his family. Social skills teachers hold that these skills can be taught and that when the child learns them, their lives get better.

The skill card system integrates both of these approaches by creating a learning situation in which specific relationship skills are taught and then rewarded when they are practised. It is a system that also constructively involved every important adult in the child's life.

If you are a licensed mental health care professional and you want to receive a copy of the skill card program free of charge you can contact us and we will gladly forward you the material.

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