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TIES program encourages positive reinforcement for children with behavior problems

Posted on: May 18, 2009

CEDAR RAPIDS — After the Ellis Boulevard home they were renting flooded last June, Patty Blackwell and her family camped and stayed with relatives until they were able to move back.

This disruption in their routine took its toll on the family, especially on Blackwell’s 3-year-old daughter.

“She threw temper tantrums, was non-compliant,” said Blackwell, 46. “I let her walk all over me.”

Charts are kept for each child's progress on specific tasks.

Charts are kept for each child's progress on specific tasks.

At her wits’ end, Blackwell enrolled her daughter in the TIES program when it first became available in Eastern Iowa in October. TIES, Teaching Interventions to Empower and Strengthen Families, is a proactive parenting program for children under 6 with mild to severe behavior problems.

What makes the program unique, according to program coordinator Craig Meskimen, is that parents and children go through the program together.

Parents are taught eight strategies focusing on positive interaction with the child. The key is telling children what they are doing right rather than what they are doing wrong.

The eight strategies include:

  1. State expectations in advance.
  2. Catch your child being good.
  3. Limited reasonable choices.
  4. Say “when,” “then.”
  5. Plan ahead.
  6. Know what’s reasonable.
  7. Stay calm.
  8. Use neutral time.

Blackwell said her daughter is a success story of the program.

“Thank God for this place,” she said at a recent open house at the Resource Center Building on the St. Luke’s Hospital campus, 1026 A Ave. NE. 

Blackwell is in the “payback” phase of the program. Funded by a grant through Linn County Community Empowerment, the program is offered at no cost to parents. In return, parents who have completed the program with their children pay back by training new families.

Aaron Jarvis, 31, of Marion, also is a charter parent who is now in the payback program. He was referred to the program by Grant Wood Area Education Agency.

Skeptical at first, he now says he’s a firm believer in the program.

His daughter, now 4, experienced separation issues after her mother left when she was a baby. Her aggressive behavior escalated when she was 3.

“She would scream for two, three hours at a time,” Jarvis said.

He could see a difference in his daughter within three weeks of the program.

“She wanted attention and knew bad behavior worked,” he said.

But parents need to ignore the bad behavior, as long as it’s safe, he said.

“They can get the attention they want by being good.”

With his daughter’s behavior under control, things are less stressful at his house.

“Behavior problems with a child are the last thing you need with the flood and recession,” he said. “You want to be able to go out and have a good time.”

He believes in the program so much he plans to volunteer after his payback time is completed.

“It is so gratifying to see changes in other children,” he said.

He distributes fliers at preschool and day care to spread the word about the program.

The program originated in 1969 in Tennessee to treat children with Down syndrome and those on the autism spectrum. However, Meskimen said there is no minimum or maximum behavior for a child to qualify for the program.

Keith Pitts, 33, of Cedar Rapids, said 90 percent of the program is focused on changing the parent, not the child.

He and his wife, Emily, adopted three children from foster care, making the bond even more difficult from the onset.

His son was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Pitts wanted to try this program before medication.

“He’s an amazingly different kid,” he said.

Ignoring the bad behavior is difficult at first for both the parent and the child, he said.

The child needs to realize that “no matter how I act out, I’m not going to get attention unless I’m being good,” Pitts explained.

Parents need to be consistent with the program’s skills or the information will not be retained, he said.

Kenny and Kim Petersen check out the charts marking their son's progress at home.

Kenny and Kim Petersen check out the charts marking their son's progress at home.

Kim Petersen, 32, of Cedar Rapids, came to TIES “pulling my hair out” fighting with her husband, Kenny, about their son’s behavior problems.

“Now he’s done a 360,” she said of her son. “It’s not just us teaching him, he teaches us.”

Parents are encouraged to keep a tally of every time the child does something negative. Parents also are encouraged to be consistent with ignoring bad behavior and recognizing good behavior. 

Once the program is completed, the families take the strategies home with a written plan. Andrea Dorn, of the Abbe Center, said the home program is written in three phases. First, the TIES staff writes a home program for the parents, then the parents and staff write a program together. Finally, the parents write their own home program to fit their child’s needs.

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5 Responses to "TIES program encourages positive reinforcement for children with behavior problems"

I have two sons of risperdone. Neither strattera or Ritalin worked for either of my two. Daytrana is what has worked for us for ADHD tendencies.

My oldest son has been on Risperdone for over 5 years. It does help with anxiety, and helped with sleep, and some obsessive tendencies, however, he still has great deal of anxiety, after normal increases in the medication over the years. Risperdone does nothing for ADHD tendencies.

One side effect for Risperdone is heavy weight gain, but that has been counteracted with my sons because they are also on Daytrana.

With Daytrana there can be depression side affects, and the medication is a patch, so for about 30 minutes once the patch is taken off, you will often see emotions as the medication stops entering their bloodstream. We have not had depression as a side effect and have had great results thus far over the last year.

Hope this helps!

Thanks for the info, Beth. From what I understood, Risperdone was more to control the austistic/PDD-NOS tendencies (which are similar to ADHD). The doctor said a side effect would be increased appetite so we will so how that affects weight gain.

I need help with a child who has some serious issues, a friend of mine has done almost everything except give the medicine that was prescribed, what can be done to help this young boy of 10?

I need help with a child who has behavioral issues.

Abu Bakr, you did not mentioned that Is your child also suffering from mental disorders?etc. If not, what kind of behavioral issues, you are specifically talking about. I think home based intervention is necessary, the program I am talking about is Home Intervention System that will help you deal with a wide range of problems that children often encounter including; anger, substance abuse, school issues, self-esteem, arguing, motivation, interacting with family, and more. Parents, teachers, school counselors, grandparents, and any other individuals who frequently interact with children will benefit from techniques and concepts presented by the Home Intervention System
. But the Children with severe violent outbursts, autism, mental retardation, and other significant disorders will not benefit from this program. Children with these types of problems will need professional advice.
I hope this information helps.

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