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Integra Young Warriors program expands to Haliburton school system

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Integra Young Warriors is a group program for 9 to 11-year-old children with LDs and co-occurring mental health challenges, including anxiety, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders.

This September, students in six elementary schools in the Haliburton region will begin the Integra Young Warriors program as part of a continued partnership with the Trillium Lakelands District School Board and four community agencies in the area.

Integra Young Warriors is an innovative, therapeutic program for 9 to 11-year-olds with learning disabilities and mental health challenges (LDMH). The program is suited for children who have opted out of traditional counselling and whose emotion regulation challenges make it difficult for them to participate and stick with other therapeutic groups. They may struggle with being scattered and hyperactive or tuned out and withdrawn, having angry outbursts, giving up too easily and being avoidant of school and social situations due to how they relate to emotions like anxiety.

“We are delivering an evidence-informed practice that integrates elements of mindfulness, collaborative problem-solving, dialectical behavior therapy, attachment theory and drama therapy with Aikido (the peaceful martial art) and yoga to help children learn critical self-regulation life skills,” says David Jurasek, Integra Young Warriors Coordinator at Child Development Institute (CDI).

Integra Young Warriors also includes a core component of parent/child engagement, which encourages parents to also learn and practice emotion regulation skills, such as tempering anger, triggering a calm response and learning to repair ruptures with their children.

While the 20-week program delivered at CDI’s Imperial Street location serves up to 80 clients per year through four classes each week, the school-based model has been adapted to meet the specific needs of the Haliburton classrooms.

“Our innovative implementation reflects the truly integrated partnership between educators and children’s mental health agencies,” says Dr. Marjory Phillips, director of the Integra program at CDI.  “The school-based sessions are taught by a team of instructors made up of both mental health professionals and teachers who have received training and the necessary certifications by our team of instructors.”

Building on the success of Integra Mindfulness Martial Arts, a similar program for youth between the ages of 12 to 18 which launched in the Trillium Lakelands District School Board four years ago, the Integra Young Warriors program works with younger children with LDMH who face their own unique challenges.

A recent two-year multi-method research study into Integra Young Warriors shows positive results: children who participated in the study demonstrated improvements in their ability to self-soothe and manage outbursts of anger and frustration, resulting in more positive interactions both at home and at school.

The program continues to grow and plans are in place to expand to other communities in Ontario. To learn more about Integra Young Warriors and how it may be delivered in your school or agency please visit the newly-launched website youngwarriors.com.