Transition After a Therapeutic School Environment
Posted: December 23, 2013 | Written By: | Category: Therapeutic Education
Supporting Your Child through the Transition from a Therapeutic to a Public School Environment
Sage Day schools offer a smaller, therapeutic environment for students who are not thriving in a larger public school due to a variety of emotional issues. However, our goal is to help our students achieve a healthy level of academic success and emotional healing so they can smoothly transition to mainstream educational programs and/or the workforce. Given the proper preparation and support, a significant number of our students can successfully return to their home school districts. When that time comes, great care is taken to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.
We know that embracing change is never easy, especially for our special-needs student body. However, by supporting them through that change, and showing them they can succeed in spite of their fears or concerns, we also help students develop valuable life skills and confidence that will serve them well during and after high school. Sage Day schools do this in several ways.
Prepare students in advance. We talk at great length to the students and their families about the upcoming return to their home district. Although we cannot predict everything or prepare them for everything that might come up, we have many conversations in advance to help them feel more at ease with the upcoming change. We remind them that they are indeed ready to go back to their public school because they’ve flourished so beautifully at Sage Day.
One way we alleviate their anxiety is to remind students of the successes they’ve enjoyed, the confidence they’ve developed, and the accomplishments they’ve attained at Sage Day. These will be reflected in sustained, demonstrated improvement in overall academic and emotional functioning for at least six months, such as:
An improvement in school attendance.
Better peer interaction and stronger connection to the school community
Better grades and stronger engagement in the learning process.
No incidence of hospitalizations, self-injury or other previous symptoms of the underlying emotional issues that impelled the enrollment at Sage Day.
Active involvement in counseling (private or through the school) to help with the transition and other developmental issues.
Successful interaction with the community outside Sage Day via employment, participation in a club, team or other sustained activity.
We will also set up a formalized transition period for the student to spend part of the school day at Sage Day and the remainder of the day in district, if needed, to get the student re-acclimated more easily.
Collaborate with district administrators. The professionals at Sage Day – educators, therapists, and administrators – all know how important communication is to the success of our students’ daily school life. It does not stop at our threshold.
We work with district administrators and their staffs to maintain open lines of communication between students, their families, and the schools so that returning students feel more at ease in their home districts.
We provide the districts with updated information about each student’s challenges and progress through quarterly summaries; these summaries cover the students’ overall social and emotional functioning as well as report cards that focus on academic performance.
Students are encouraged to get involved with activities at their district school that they explored and enjoyed at Sage Day such as clubs, extracurricular programs such as art or music, or electives. This helps develop a stronger connection and relationship to their school.
Foster a supportive in-district atmosphere. The most important aspect of making an easy transition back to district is to give students ample opportunity to express their feelings and thoughts – just as they have at Sage Day schools.
We work with school administrators and school psychologists to develop an atmosphere where students feel empowered to address their concerns in the moment, rather than allow those to fester unchecked.
In addition, we work with the child study teams to discuss the areas where the student still needs support upon return to the sending district.
Our embedded therapeutic services are available in many northern New Jersey school districts; these services provide a supportive bridge between the therapeutic environment students had at our Sage Day schools and their lives back at public school.
Ease parents’ anxiety. Many times, parents of our special-needs students are feeling some anxiety about their children’s transition back to public school as well. It is important to ease parents’ worries and let them know they have a sounding board for their feelings of discomfort. This will also help them support their children through the return to public school from Sage Day.
One way we address parents’ concerns is to allow them to continue their family or individual counseling with their Sage Day counselor. The trust and supportive relationship developed here remains uninterrupted, as families continue on their paths to emotional health and deeper understanding of their children’s issues.
We also work with parents to assess their understanding of the students’ issues and needs, and help them develop strategies for meeting any difficulties their children may have during the transition back to district—and beyond.
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