School-based intervention to address self-regulation and executive functioning in children attending primary schools in remote Australian Aboriginal communities

Bree Wagner, Jane Latimer, Emma Adams, Heather Carmichael Olson, Martyn Symons, Trevor G. Mazzucchelli, Tracy Jirikowic, Rochelle Watkins, Donna Cross, Jonathan Carapetis, John Boulton, Edie Wright, Tracy McRae, Maureen Carter, James P. Fitzpatrick

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14 Citations (Web of Science)


Executive functioning and self-regulation influence a range of outcomes across the life course including physical and mental health, educational success, and employment. Children prenatally exposed to alcohol or early life trauma (ELT) are at higher risk of impairment of these skills and may require intervention to address self-regulation deficits. Researchers partnered with the local Aboriginal health organization and schools to develop and pilot a manualized version of the Alert Program® in the Fitzroy Valley, north Western Australia, a region with documented high rates of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and ELT. This self-controlled cluster randomized trial evaluated the effect of an 8-week Alert Program® intervention on children’s executive functioning and self-regulation skills. Following parent or caregiver consent (referred to hereafter as parent), 271 students were enrolled in the study. This reflects a 75% participation rate and indicates the strong community support that exists for the study. Teachers from 26 primary school classrooms across eight Fitzroy Valley schools received training to deliver eight, one-hour Alert Program® lessons over eight-weeks to students. Student outcomes were measured by parent and teacher ratings of children’s behavioral, emotional, and cognitive regulation. The mean number of lessons attended by children was 4.2. Although no significant improvements to children’s executive functioning skills or behavior were detected via the teacher-rated measures as hypothesized, statistically significant improvements were noted on parent-rated measures of executive functioning and behavior. The effectiveness of future self-regulation programs may be enhanced through multimodal delivery through home, school and community based settings to maximize children’s exposure to the intervention. Despite mixed findings of effect, this study was an important first step in adapting and evaluating the Alert Program® for use in remote Australian Aboriginal community schools, where access to self-regulation interventions is limited.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0234895
JournalPLoS One
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


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