The American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF) awards Intervention Research Grants (IRG) as part of its mission to advance the science of occupational therapy to support people's full participation in meaningful life activities.
One of the most recent award recipients was Dr. Kelle DeBoth Foust, an alumni of the PhD in Health Related Sciences program at VCU, for her research project, Building Resilience and Social-Emotional Skills in Under-Resourced Preschoolers with History of Trauma.
Dr. Foust was mentored by Dr. Stacey Reynolds in the PhD program before moving into an academic role at Cleveland State University. The grant project will implement a program in the preschool classrooms at the YWCA of Cleveland Early Learning Center to help children who have experienced homelessness and other adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) associated with poverty.
The program, Building Resilience, is rooted in Trauma Informed Care (TIC) and designed to help children and their families learn to cope with challenges and adversity, and “bounce back.” The research team will work with preschoolers two times a week for 8 weeks helping children learn to identify how they are feeling, use appropriate coping skills, and improve mental health and participation.
A comparison group of children participating in group activities that focuses on general school readiness (i.e, getting ready for kindergarten) will be used for analysis of the outcomes. The program will also provide training and support to help caregivers with these same resiliency skills. Prior work suggests significant barriers to caregiver participation, in particular for caregivers from populations wrought with poverty. In order to help overcome these barriers for caregivers often juggling multiple jobs, with high demands on their time and resources, lack of reliable transportation, and significant childcare needs, the grant funding will provide financial support and resources.
The research team will also work with YWCA staff and teachers to help embed strategies to build resilience within a more systemic approach to TIC at this facility.