For the seven years that we have been developing and delivering more than 14 programs into schools to educate about eating disorders, mental health and stress management (now in collaboration with Harvard School of Public Health), we have found the "tiered" approach overwhelmingly favorable (versus coming into a school and teaching the students directly, right off the bat).The tiers include: teaching the leaders (school clinicians, administrators, coaches and educators), teaching the parents, then teaching the students. The goal is to create a "blanket of support" for the entire school community -- especially when it comes to teaching about these topics in grade schools, middle schools and high schools. In fact, in grade schools, we don't even teach about eating disorders themselves. We train the teachers and parents about these issues, but not the students themselves. Instead, we focus on body image, healthy coping and stress management training for children under the ages of 12.
In a recent survey that we conducted for our ThinkEatPlay program to optimize health in female athletes, we learned how very little athletic coaches know about issues of disordered eating, eating disorders and related health complications facing young athletes. Similarly, we have learned that school clinicians in each district may not know about the illnesses, nor where (exactly) to refer or send students if they are found to be struggling with a serious, life-threatening eating disorder.
For these reasons, we have developed several tiers of learning and strategic roll-out for each. In particular, the "Train the Trainer" model is highly popular, whereby in-depth trainings with qualified specialists in the field of eating disorders directly teach "Trainers" from each district.
Afterwards, those "Trainers" return to their district to instruct the other leaders, coaches and counselors. Finally, after the "Train the Trainer" model has been completed, we instruct parents.
Only after the above, will we actually teach students about eating disorders.
Examples of programs we use for each "Tier" include:
Tier 1 and 2 -- Train the Trainer and Train the Parents: Speaking Out About Eating Disorders film, ED 101 film, ThinkEatPlay (for coaches), Be -- Stress Management and Wellness Curriculum, Beneath The Floorboards (documentary film about the mental health side of obesity), as well as an array of live seminars and talks with qualified specialists in the field of eating disorders.
Tier 3 -- Teach the Students -- NORMAL THE MUSICAL, ED 101 film, Stress Management Curriculum, Healthy Selfitude, Soar! Body Image Seminar, Self Esteem Stomp, Inside Out (live arts event), Real Deal body image blog universe, YouTube Channel of films, etc.
Examples of a 3 Tiered Initiative:
Tier 1: Train the Trainers with Speaking Out About ED film and seminar with qualified eating disorders specialists. During this training, leaders in the schools are linked to QUALIFIED eating disorders providers, hospitals and resources in their community.
Tier 2: Train Parents with ED 101 film and seminar with qualified eating disorders specialists. During this training, parents learn about all types of eating disorders and how to speak to a child who may need help. They learn about support and the importance of early intervention to a full recovery.
Tier 3: Train the students with the ED 101 film and follow up with the Stress Management and Mindfulness curriculum. We focus on teaching the students that these are biologically based illnesses that are not a matter of will, how to help a friend who may be struggling, that full recovery is possible, and -- most important -- we provide trainings about healthy ways to manage stress and cope with difficulty.