Primary Project

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Most students yearn for that one-to-one time with a caring role model in the playroom. Primary Project is a transformational experience for our children.

School Principal
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If you know a child who appears to be having challenges in the classroom, Primary Project may be the solution.

Primary Project is a national evidence-based program that helps children in Pre-K through third grade adjust to school, gain confidence, social skills, and focus on learning. Through play, Primary Project addresses children’s school adjustment difficulties and increases their chances for success.

Begun in 1957, Primary Project is the foundational program of Children’s Institute. It has helped countless children since then, and continues to grow throughout New York and the nation. It identifies young children who show emerging school adjustment difficulties and provides them with one-on-one time with a specially trained and supervised paraprofessional.


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  • Teachers and parents of pre-k through third grade children who may be experiencing school adjustment challenges
  • Detect school adjustment difficulties early
  • Children develop a school-based, trusting relationship with an adult
  • Reduce social, emotional, and school adjustment difficulties
  • Enhance learning skills
  • Reduces negative adjustment behaviors
  • Improves children's self-confidence, social skills, learning skills, and other school-related competencies
  • Allows school mental health professionals to focus on children who need more intensive interventions
  • Early screening detects school adjustment difficulties
  • Children meet weekly with highly trained and supervised paraprofessionals (called child associates) in a playroom setting
  • The child sets the pace with the child associate supporting and reflecting on what the child says and does to reinforce and build on the child’s strengths
  • Ongoing consultation and program evaluation allows for continuous improvement
  • Ongoing training opportunities are available for teachers & educational staff, Primary Project supervisors and child associates, and Primary Project preschool sites. Contact us for more information.
  • Evidence-Based Program - National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  • Sharing Success Program - New York State Education Department
  • Lela Rowland Award for Outstanding Prevention Program - National Mental Health Association
  • Exemplary Prevention Program - U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health

Contact

lsmith [at] childrensinstitute.net (Lynn Smith, LMSW)
Co-Director of Primary Project

ssanyshyn [at] childrensinstitute.net (Shelley M. Sanyshyn, MS)
Co-Director of Primary Project

Biographies