By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN “I was a little tiny bit nervous about being on TV, but now I just feel good to be on KARE 11,” Winsted Elementary School second-grader Michael Schwartz said while being filmed for the station’s “What’s Cool in Our School” segment recently.
Footage of Schwartz and other students from Michelle Olson’s special education class will air Thursday, May 9 at about 6:15 a.m. They’ll be demonstrating the success of the “Nurtured Heart Approach,” which involves proven strategies for behavioral reform.
“We see some of the aggressive behaviors are becoming a lot less, and there is more focus on academics,” school psychologist intern Stacy Nielson said.
The approach was introduced in Winsted’s special education department last fall, and Michael’s mother, Sierra, is already noticing improvement.
“We have seen a lot of the techniques helping him be successful,” Sierra said. “He loves school, and he loves Mrs. Olson.”
When Michael was 3, he began having severe temper tantrums. By the end of his kindergarten year, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder).
“That was a big relief to know what was going on with him,” Sierra recalled, adding that teachers and staff at Winsted Elementary have always been willing to work with Michael and see the best in him.
Seeing the best in each child is part of the Nurtured Heart Approach, developed by Howard Glasser.“Culturally, we tend to highlight what’s wrong, not what’s right,” Nielson said. “You have to change your mindset.”
Nielson brought Nurtured Heart Approach to Winsted after undergoing five days of training in Arizona.
“My life is better because I live by this approach,” she said. “I have made a choice to focus on what is good and what is right.”
During the KARE 11 filming, Nielson and a group of children from Olson’s class demonstrated the techniques while discussing “greatness.”
Nielson pointed out positive behaviors she saw in the children, saying things like: “I like how you raised your hand,” “Thank you for being patient,” and “That was very polite of you.”
The children also focused on positive communication.
“Everybody’s improving, and doing a really good job. I’m sure Mrs. Olson is really proud of us,” a student named Caleb said.
“It’s great to be here,” said another student, Damian.
In February, Nielson led a full-day Nurtured Heart Approach training session for special education staff members district-wide. Soon, the Nurtured Heart Approach will also be implemented in the district’s mainstream classes.
Parents will have an opportunity to learn about the approach this fall, during a five-session class.
What is Nurtured Heart Approach?
According to the Children’s Success Foundation website, the Nurtured Heart Approach has three core methodologies:
• “I refuse to energize negative behavior.”
• “I will relentlessly energize the positive.”
• “I will maintain total clarity about rules that demonstrate fair and consistent boundaries.”
To learn more about the Nurtured Heart Approach, go to Children's Success Foundation.