Daniel Waschbusch believes no child is a lost cause.
The FIU psychologist in the Center for Children and Families is conducting a three-year study on callous-unemotional children – those who exhibit a lack of remorse or empathy. The study is part of Washbusch’s more than decade-long career devoted to helping children with emotional and behavioral problems.
Waschbusch’s work gained national attention this week when The New York Times Magazine published an in-depth article on his efforts to help children who are often viewed as untreatable.
Callous-unemotional children, according to the New York Times article, are at-risk of developing aggressive, anti-social behaviors as adults that could limit their abilities to lead normal lives and, in some cases, lead to criminal behavior.
The article profiled one child who attended an experimental treatment program last summer during the FIU Center for Children and Families’ Summer Treatment Program, which has traditionally focused on children with ADHD. Waschbusch designed the callous-unemotional program to focus on evidence-based treatments that have worked on children with other behavior problems – a system of rewards and punishments.
“I came to this research as a skeptic, but then I came to believe we’re on to something,” Waschbusch said.
This summer, he will conduct a second program, expanding from one class to four. Now in the third year of this three-year study, he hopes to refine the methods used in the class to help improve the unrepentant children’s responses to treatment.
“This year, we’re testing feasibility,” Waschbusch said. “We’re going to do four weeks modified, meaning play up the rewards and downplay the punishments. And then we’ll do four weeks of standard behavior therapy.”
Waschbusch said he believes his results will show the right treatment, at the right time, can mitigate long-term behavioral issues. He’s currently accepting participants for his summer program, which begins June 18. Information is available by calling the FIU Center for Children and Families at 305-348-0477.