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Reaching IN...Reaching OUT (RIRO) Program Effectiveness

Training participants report the skills help young children calm down more easily, feel less upset about making mistakes and persevere. They also help children empathize more with other children, problem solve more effectively and follow through better on expected behaviour.

RIRO skills training works

With several years of program development and evaluation under its belt, RIRO has learned what works when it comes to teaching skills and promoting "resilient" thinking and coping in adults and young children.Founded in research and guided by ongoing evaluation, this section summarizes the research and evaluation findings that have led to RIRO’s success. Nearly 1000,000 service providers have attended the skills training.

Rooted in research

RIRO was founded in the wide body of research conducted for more than 30 years at the University of Pennsylvania and other university centres which shows that our thinking habits and patterns have a profound impact on our ability to cope with stress, our health and longevity, happiness and success, and our resilience.[1]Reivich, K. & A. J. Shatté. 2002. The Resilience Factor. New York: Broadway Books.

The same research has also shown that our thinking patterns are not fixed – we can learn to be more resilient by changing the way we think about adversity and opportunity.[2]Reivich, K. & A. Shatté. 2002. The Resilience Factor. New York: Broadway Books; Seligman, M. E. P. 1991. Learned Optimism. New York: Pocket Books; Seligman, M. E. P., K. Reivich, L. Jaycox, and J. Gillham. 1995. The Optimistic Child. New York: Harper Perennial.

Research at the Penn Resilience Program (PRP) has primarily focused on the benefits of fostering resilience in children eight years and older. However, by eight, most children have already developed a thinking style, or preferred way of viewing the world. Even children two and three years old mimic the thinking and coping styles of caregivers around them.[3]Seligman, M. E. P., K. Reivich, L. Jaycox, and J. Gillham. 1995. The Optimistic Child. New York: Harper Perennial.

The RIRO Skills Training program was developed and designed to influence young children's evolving thinking styles and key abilities during this important window of opportunity.

Pilot project results

RIRO received funding in 2002 (Phase 1) from the Social Development Partnerships Program (Government of Canada) to adapt and pilot content from the Penn Resilience Program and see what effect it would have on young children up to age six years. Child care centres were chosen as test sites because of the daily contact between Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) and young children and families.

ECEs in four pilot centres were taught the adult resiliency skills from the Penn Resiliency Program. After practicing the resiliency skills in their own lives, they systematically introduced the skills through role modeling during their daily interactions with children. ECEs also introduced selected skills directly through child-friendly activities developed jointly with the RIRO research team. The skills were used to support children's development of several critical abilities associated with resilience – emotional regulation, impulse control, causal analysis, empathy, self-efficacy, realistic optimism and reaching out to others and opportunities. For more information about the resiliency abilities, click here.

Formal evaluation through ECE reports revealed that the resiliency skills training had positive effects on both the children and staff in childcare centres.

Adult role modeling of the skills was found to be beneficial for children of any age. Children as young as 3-1/2 years were able to profit from the child-friendly resiliency activities presented to them. Most importantly, the children in the pilot centres were observed using the resiliency skills with their peers.

ECEs also reported benefits for themselves, including reduced job stress, better adult communication and increased teamwork.

The skills had an overall positive impact on ECE's:

  • interactions and relationships with children in their care
  • interactions with colleagues, family, friends and acquaintances.

The skills helped them better understand:
  • their own feelings, thoughts and behaviour
  • children's behaviour
  • other adult's behaviour .

The skills helped children:
  • calm down more easily
  • be less upset about making mistakes and more likely to persevere
  • follow through better on expected behaviour
  • be more empathic with peers
  • problem solve more effectively.

View the full report (PDF) about the pilot project.

RIRO's development and ongoing evaluation

Based on the promising results of the pilot study, HRSDC provided further funding in 2004 (Phase 2) to develop a specialized and flexible skills training program for ECEs and other child-serving professionals, as well as curriculum modules for students in college and university settings.  The program was extended to include work with children from birth to seven years.

More than 350 professionals participated in the development and formal evaluation of the new RIRO resiliency skills training program. Post-training follow-up surveys sent out between November 2005 and February 2006 (an average of four months after training) confirmed the original pilot results. View study highlights.

Since 2006, two additional projects (Phases 3 & 4) plus ongoing follow-up evaluation of skills training participants several months after the training has repeatedly confirmed previous findings and shows that this is not a training that 'sits on the shelf':

  • 96% of respondents report using the resiliency skills at work
  • 93% are using the skills at home and elsewhere
  • 98% are role modeling the skills with children
  • 60% of ECEs have already seen children introduced to the skills using them with other children after only 3 months.

View summary of ongoing evaluation

Report on RIRO & BBT results

Our report describing Phases 1 to 4 and the follow-up evaluation of the RIRO Resiliency Skills Training Program
as well as the BBT Program (up to 2014) is now available.         
Full report           Summary of report

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"I believe this program would benefit anyone who works with children. I would love to know information and statistics – let's say 10 years down the road – to see what the outcome is for these children."
–CS (trainer)

"The skills training really opens your eyes about how you perceive yourself and the children in your care. It helps you question your reactions and generate alternatives. It gives you tools to build resilience."
–SC (ECE, frontline)

"Excellent training! I learned so much relevant information that I can use in my work with children and families and also my personal life."
–MSP (registered nurse)

"I feel in our society it is so important to empower ourselves and children with these skills. It will affect our future success school/ work, relationships, parenting, health..." LP (manager, OEYC)

"A clear and concise method of training one to think and act differently in the face of adversity." –CM (child psychologist)

"The RIRO materials and program are fantastic. The information can be used in so many ways, professionally and personally." –RA (facilitator trainer–early learning)

“The resiliency training has helped me refine my observation skills. I’m not only looking to see – does this child have the fine motor skills to print or the self-regulation skills to calm himself during a transition? It is also helping me see – Is this child resilient? When faced with an obstacle or frustration can s/he get on with the day or is this a child whose whole day is ruined because this one thing happened?” –AB (ECE, kindergarten room)