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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

College of Education to study emotional disorders in children

A multimillion dollar grant to UF’s College of Education will help researchers detect and help students with emotional disorders.

The Institute of Education Sciences granted UF $3.5 million to conduct a trial of Social-Emotional Learning Foundations, which is a curriculum designed to help kindergarten and first-grade students learn about and express their emotions. The program will start this year and run through 2020, said Ann Daunic, a primary investigator.

During the first three years of the study, 60 schools, 360 teachers and classrooms with about 1,440 children at risk for emotional-behavior disorders will be recruited in Florida, she said.

This year, researchers will be working with students in counties throughout the state, including Marion, Levi, Putnam, Bradford and Baker, she said.

The research will take place during the academic year, she said. She hopes teaching elementary schoolers to express and manage their emotions will help future academic performance.

“We are hoping to find out whether our approach and curriculum are helping kids in their social development,” Daunic said.

The curriculum is built around picture books, chosen by the researchers, to discuss emotions and feelings students may experience, said Stephen Smith, an investigator. Teachers will go through the books with students they think may be at risk of emotional-behavior disorders.

Teachers delivering the curriculum will learn about it through a two-day intensive orientation, he said.

“What we are trying to do is give them a vocabulary where they can start to identify those feelings,” Smith said, “which can lead to hopefully some self-regulations as it relates to social conflict that we all have.”

Rachel Johnson, a 21-year-old UF elementary education senior, said SELF will give the kids an activity upon which to build social skills.

She said it is important to understand children’s behavior and expects SELF will help.

“I think it’ll benefit them greatly to catch it early in kids who display such character, and as teachers, it’ll help us reach it early,” Johnson said.

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