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National Center For Children Established

New National Center For Children With Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Needs Has UC Riverside Links

UC Riverside, Lehigh University Share $3.5 million U.S. Department of Education Grant for Project REACH

(October 13, 2003)

Frank Gresham

Frank Gresham

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — — Frank Gresham, distinguished professor of education at the University of California, Riverside, and researchers at Lehigh University have joined to form a national center that will determine effective strategies for treating children with the most severe social, emotional and behavioral problems.

This fall, UC Riverside researchers will begin working with parents and teachers of select students at the San Bernardino City Unified School District, who have social, emotional and behavioral needs.

The National Center for Students with Social, Emotional and Behavioral Needs is funded with a $3.5 million, five-year award from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs. The grant is the only one of its kind in the nation, said Gresham. It has enabled UC Riverside and Lehigh to develop Project REACH, one of several projects falling under Lehigh’s Center for Research to Practice — Schools, Families, Communities. Project REACH currently works with several school districts in Pennsylvania and with the San Bernardino City Unified School District in San Bernardino, CA, the 10th largest district in the nation.

The project will follow 125 students ranging in grades from kindergarten to ninth, for four years to identify effective strategies for improving their long-term quality of life. Additional resources for parents and teachers will be available through a Web site that describes student behavior problems and the interventions most likely to address them, along with the steps in applying effective interventions.

“Treatments will be individualized to the students’ problems through behavior modification, positive reinforcement, and social skills training,” said Gresham. “We will also be using cognitive behavioral therapy to address problems with depression and anxiety.”

Teachers will be able to download forms needed to carry out the intervention in the classroom. Parents will find information to help them reduce their child’s behavior problems. Examples of the intervention and forms needed to use it in the home and community are available for download by visiting the Project REACH Web site.

Project REACH is expected to add depth to the research on effective treatment and interventions for children suffering from social, emotional and behavioral problems.

“We don’t really know a whole heck of a lot about how kids respond to interventions over the long term,” Gresham said. “In the short term, we hope to see some increase in academic achievement by these children, an increase in social skills and peer relations, and an increase in standardized testing.”

Project REACH is co-led by Frank Gresham at the Graduate School of Education at UC Riverside, and Lee Kern, associate professor of special education at Lehigh University.

Gresham was one of about two-dozen experts throughout the nation to testify before the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education in April 2002. The commission issued policy recommendations to the White House on financing special education, the issues needing more research, and how effective current efforts are in providing quality services. Gresham pointed out the weaknesses in federal and state regulations governing high-incidence disabilities, such as specific learning disabilities, mild mental retardation and emotional disturbance.

His focus is on the social interaction of children and adolescents with learning disabilities, behavior disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and mild mental retardation.

Kern has published and lectured extensively on functional behavioral assessment, support plan development, challenging behaviors, curricular interventions and self-management. She is currently associate editor for three national scholarly journals and serves on the advisory board for five other journals in special education and school psychology.

In the long term, Gresham hopes to track how many of the children successfully leave special education and how many wind up in the juvenile justice or mental health system.

The Graduate School of Education at UC Riverside sustains distinguished doctoral programs in selected areas. Its teacher preparation program, one of the largest in the UC system, is recognized for its quality and innovation. The School offers specializations in curriculum and instruction, educational psychology, leadership and policy studies, school psychology and special education. U. S. News and World Report recently rated the faculty fifth in the nation in research productivity based on publication records. The School has attracted nearly $11,000,000 in grant funds in the past three years. Faculty members are active in various field-based programs, including the California Educational Research Cooperative and the School-University Partnership.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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