TIES     Teaching Interventions to Empower and Strengthen Families

By Michelle Howe

Have you ever been in public with your toddler and they decide to behave in a tantrum-like fashion? Or maybe your child has trouble getting to sleep at night, or displays signs of aggression at times. If any of these scenarios sound familiar, the Teaching Interventions to Empower and Strengthen Families (TIES) Program that is run by Unity Point Health in Cedar Rapids is a program designed to help with these behaviors.

Modeled after the RIP (Regional Intervention Program) out of Nashville, Tennessee, TIES was brought to Cedar Rapids in October, 2008. TIES is an evidenced based model that is supported by a lengthy amount of data history. The data helps with implementation of precise intervention plans to make sure that behaviors are improving at an acceptable rate. The program has been funded since the onset by Linn County Early Childhood Iowa (LCECI) and is free to parents and children. The only cost is your time. Program Director Craig Meskimen describes the curriculum as Applied Behavioral Analysis – where parents practice the skills they are being taught in a classroom environment. Studies have shown that positive intervention at an early age is the best way to offset negative behavior and they learn that with TIES. His enthusiasm for the program is clear as he describes the process the families experience. “We actually have an observation room with a two-way mirror where we can see the interaction between the parent and child. It’s all parents who want to improve their relationship with their kids, and it’s really powerful stuff,” Meskimen says. “It’s a really unique model. We are not therapy, rather we are a behavior management program. Our goal is to give every parent the skills to deal with any and all behaviors their child may present them with” Meskimen adds. “Everything we teach is focused on enhancing a positive outcome. We don’t use negative feedback, time outs, spanking, yelling or punitive punishments. Our model is endlessly positive.”

“We don’t have a minimum or maximum set of behavior standards.in order to participate,” Meskimen says. All families choose multiple specific behaviors they would like to diminish, and a date driven “program” will be developed to reduce that negative behavior by 75%. Meskimen says “I hear a lot of parents say ‘I love my child, but I don’t really like them’ – so it’s very powerful to be able to help these families.” While the program focuses one “target” child, they will also work with siblings, so the whole family participates. There are two forms of treatment in the program – Active and Payback. Parents and kids can expect anywhere from 18 to 25 visits in the Active phase where the skills are being practiced. For instance, if a child is being aggressive 10 times per day, with the help of a TIES intervention the parents can expect to reduce that aggressive behavior down to 2.5 times per day or less. In addition, parents can expect their overall stress to reduce at an average of 30% as evidenced by the Parent Stress Index parent survey!

When the skills have been mastered, they reach the Payback phase. This is when the kids and parents become the facilitators and role models and help run the program. This is what Meskimen says is his favorite part of the program. “The kids don’t have to come back and help, but we really like them to,” he adds.

Marketing the program since the beginning has been a major focus for Meskimen. In the early years, a big part of his role was promoting the program to doctors, physicians and daycares. They typically have 12 to 18 families in each program at a time and work with well over 100 kids each year. The program accepts children from 18 months thru age 5. Once enrolled, they meet twice a week for a three to five month period learning the skills. Meeting times are:

Monday - Wednesday 11 am to 1 pm
Monday - Wednesday 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm
Tuesday Thursday 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm

For more information call 319.558.4861 or email sara.nightingale@unitypoint.org.

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