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Celebrate the Children
Celebrate the Children is working towards expanding their services to help more children and families. The following is a proposal for a private school and center projected to open in 2003 or 2004. Currently, CTC is in need of financial support to expedite this project more quickly.

Name of private school: Celebrate the Children (CTC)
Contact person: Lauren
Telephone number: 1-973-691-5553 or
Proposed location: Sussex/Morris Counties, NJ
Counties to be served: Sussex, Morris, Warren and Essex Counties, NJ
Type of program: Day school, early intervention, after school programs, summer camp programs, parent/sibling training and support facility, consultation services to individual families and other private and public schools

Celebrate the Children
Celebrate the Children has been providing services for children on the autism spectrum(PDD-NOS), MSDD(Multisystem Developmental Disorder), Regulatory Disorder, ODD, OCD, ADHD, Down's Syndrome, expressive language delay, and mild physical disabilities for twelve years.

Celebrate the Children is a unique program in that it is one of the first to implement the DIR model (the Greenspan-Wieder Developmental Individual Relationship-based therapy) in a comprehensive school program. We are at an important time in the history of education as many people, including public school districts, are recognizing the need for approaches for special needs children that look at overall development and target documented deficit areas such as abstract thinking, problem solving, independence, self esteem, emotions, language, and social interactions in a natural and supportive setting. At this time the demand for this type of intervention is much greater than what educators are able to supply. Celebrate the children alone must turn down requests for services on a daily basis due to the lack of space and professionals trained in this model. Therefore, it is crucial that we further develop the program to serve more children and provide training to professionals and parents.

The Problem: The Demand for DIR Services Exceeds what our Current Program can Provide. The demand for intervention programs for children with relating and communicating disorders is growing rapidly. One reason is that more children are being diagnosed now than in previous years. The second reason is that, with more children receiving early intervention, there has been an increase in the number of these children entering regular school settings. As more of these children become integrated into the community, the ability for them to be independent takes priority. Parents and professionals need the tools to facilitate independent thinkers and problem solvers resulting in successful experiences for these children. Currently, there are not enough trained professionals or established programs offering these services to the children who need them.

Rationale for this Specific Program: It has been argued that children need cognitive skills, such as independent thinking, problem solving and understanding of social relating, as a foundation to all other learning (Greenspan, 1997). The DSM-IV identifies these areas of deficit in children on the autistic spectrum and other disorders of relating and communicating. However, the lack of teaching in these areas is a weakness in some of the most popular interventions now being used with these children. Traditional approaches to intervention often focus on remediating disruptive behavior and the acquisition of academic skills. Celebrate the Children is an eclectic approach designed to meet the needs of the individual child by providing them with the foundations to be independent thinkers and problem solvers(see philosophy appendix #1) The backbone of the program is the Developmental Individual Relationship-based (DIR) intervention created by Drs. Stanley Greenspan and Serena Wieder. However, structured social skills training, behavior modification techniques, speech and language and academics are incorporated into the DIR model to maximize the child's success. Currently, parents and professionals are recognizing the limitations of traditional approaches and requests for DIR services is increasing at a rapid and steady pace. It is the goal of Celebrate the Children to expand the use of DIR through direct intervention services and the training of other professionals.

The Solution: Celebrate the Children Center in Sussex/Morris County. The proposed center will provide an array of services including direct intervention with children as well as the continued training of other professionals and parents in DIR. The site itself will include classrooms for students 3 to 18 years old, early intervention for children 0-5 years old, parent and sibling training and support, after school programs and annual summer camps. Off-site services based out of the center will include home programs and training and consultation services to other private and public school districts implementing this model. The goal of this center is to work with, not replace, public school district programs to maximize the success of students in the least restrictive environment.

Training and consultation services to other private and public school districts is a service currently offered by Celebrate the Children. This service includes staff training, program set up, implementation and monitoring. Many parents, professionals and school districts are recognizing the benefits of the DIR approach and are eliciting training in the model. Some schools require services for individual students while others require assistance in developing comprehensive DIR programs. Celebrate the children will continue to consult to other schools to develop these programs and further support the growth of DIR in private and public school settings.

On-site classrooms will provide a comprehensive education for their students that meet New Jersey core curriculum content standards. These classrooms will provide a supportive learning environment for students who are not ready to participate in their home district programs or their home districts do not yet offer a program that supports their needs. Although these classrooms will provide students with a comprehensive education, it is the mission of this service to create independent individuals and prepare students to return to their public schools and inclusive settings as soon as they're ready. The curriculum will incorporate all components of the Celebrate the Children program with a heavy focus on independence, abstract thinking and social skills preparing them for less restrictive environments. Typical peer involvement will be a daily experience for all students. Celebrate the Children works with many school districts in New Jersey that participate in regular peer modeling opportunities. For a detailed description of existing Celebrate the Children classroom outlines and activities summary visit

Early intervention for children 0-5 years old will include on-site assessment, DIR intervention and parent training. Home programming will also be offered to provide therapy to students and support other therapists and parents working with the students in the home. Parent training will be a priority within this division of the program. The philosophy of DIR supports the parent-child relationship from the first stages of life building a strong foundation for all areas of development. DIR intervention with the child will focus on facilitating the first stages of life including the child's ability to regulate themselves, connect with the world and engage in relationships. Even in these early stages of life, these children will be encouraged to be initiators, thinkers and problem solvers. Therapists and consultants working in home programs will support behavioral and social development within the home environment and may include shadowing children to typical mainstream programs. This service aims to prepare students to successfully enter their preschool district programs as soon as they are ready and eligible.

Parent and sibling training and support will include on-site DIR and behavioral training for parents, advocate services, facilitated play sessions with siblings, and support groups for both parents and siblings. The goal behind this service is to empower family members with an understanding of the student's needs that will result in positive and meaningful relationships.

After school programs will offer social skills groups, peer and sibling play groups, and individual therapy(to support children in other programs) after school hours, holidays and weekends. All after school programs will follow the Celebrate the Children curriculum. The goal of this service is to provide students with off-hours social opportunities to maximize their overall development.

Annual summer camps have been a popular aspect of the existing Celebrate the Children program for the past three years. Our camps are something we, the parents and students look forward to all year. We are the only camp in North New Jersey that provides all day social skills development to children with special needs. Many of the children who participate in our summer camp attend academic programs throughout the school year. As many of these children suffer significant social developmental deficits, the summer camp is a desperately needed service. Our goal is to help these children develop the cognitive and social skills needed to make them successful individuals in the community and with their peers. The proposed center will continue to offer summer camps yearly.
Research projects will include 'Developing Theory-of-mind in Children with Social Difficulties'(already in progress), 'The Efficacy of DIR programs in Educational Settings'(already in progress), etc.

Celebrate the Children consists of a group of professionals who have been working together over the past four years to provide all of the above services to children with special needs under the employment of various school districts in New Jersey. The success of their intervention services has been recognized worldwide and is now in overwhelming demand. Celebrate the Children was founded in 1991 by Monica G. Osgood, Behavioral consultant. The other members consist of Lauren O'Connor, B.A. and Michelle Reese, M.A..

The existing CTC programs are currently serving as models to other programs developing under the DIR philosophy. Observers and working volunteers are a regular feature within the programs as other professionals take advantage of learning within the model.

Monica G. Osgood is a regular speaker at conferences around to world. Recently, Monica presented a conference in the UK sponsored by the Autistic Society of Wales that was aired as a 30 minute documentary on a public television station. She is also one of the first professionals in the world to be formally certified in DIR. An overview of the her CTC program will be published in a casebook offered by the Interdisciplinary Council of Learning Disorders(Greenspan) in November of 2001.
Most recently, Celebrate the Children has been contracted to provide on-going consultation to several school districts in the UK who are adopting the DIR approach in their schools.

For additional information on Celebrate the Children visit:

Budget Request: In an effort to create a private school, from our already existing public program in Mount Arlington,NJ, Celebrate The Children needs $427,000.00 to cover the following start-up costs: Deposit to secure the proposed facility in Netcong $125,000; Starting salaries for staff( Director, Asst. Director, Principal, Teacher, Classroom aides, contractors such as Speech, Occupational and Physical therapists, Nurse, clerical, etc.) $160,000; Renovations$50,000, Furniture $12,000, Educational materials and supplies$18,000; Insurance $6,000; Staff benefits $32,000; Maintenance $4,000, Misc. services and supplies $20,000. Other sources of income include tuition and funds generated from a variety of fundraisers. For the purpose of this proposal, the aforementioned is an approximation. A formal, itemized budget is currently being revised and will be included in the formal proposal.

Celebrate the Children thanks you for the opportunity to share a dream. CTC is an established program with overwhelming support to expand it's services. Please give serious consideration to the importance of this mission. If you are interested, and would like a formal proposal sent to you, please contact Lauren O'Connor at 1-908-684-8242 or


Greenspan, S., M.D., Wieder, S., Ph.D. (1997). The Child with Special Needs: Encouraging Intellectual and Emotional Growth (1997). Addison Wesley, NYC.


Children with difficulties in communicating and relating often possess sensory processing difficulties(SPD). This causes them to experience the world differently than most people. Most people are able to integrate sensory information without even thinking about it. People who have difficulty processing sensory information see, hear, feel, smell, and taste information at both higher and lower intensities than people without these processing problems. Because we receive all information though our senses, these processing difficulties often lead to misperceptions of information, under or overstimulation, disregulation and sometimes, anxiety. These difficulties make organizing ones self and interacting with the world very challenging. People with these difficulties prefer predictable activities and interactions because they are easier to process. Chaotic or new places, new events, objects or activities require a high level of processing and can cause anxiety. Other people, especially peers, are very unpredictable and therein lies the challenge of interacting with others. For these children it is easier to tune out painfully stimulating situations, such as social interactions, than to have to deal with them. This results in self absorption and minimal, if any, observational learning. Instead, many of these children will engage in self stimulatory activities as a way of coping with their anxiety, attempting to regulate themselves. In the most severe cases we are left with a child who appears to be very odd and completely separated from the world around him. Additionally, the disorganization that these children experience inside often inhibits them from developing the natural rhythm and timing needed to interact successfully with others.

First, and foremost, these difficulties need to be respected. Although we cannot empathize with this, we must try to understand the best we can through our observations and from what people with SPD are able to tell us. We must share equally in their world while expecting them to somewhat conform to ours. Celebrate the Children always respects the degree to which a child is able to cope with their environment. By targeting developmental deficits in the child that will improve their processing abilities, regulation and anxiety are addressed before demands are placed on the child.

When working with children who experience SPD it is imperative to help them regulate themselves to sustain interactions. A personal connection with the individual must be made before placing expectations on them. This can be done by showing the child that one understands their processing challenges through interactions that are tailored to the child's processing abilities. With this respect, we can show them that we are interested in their world while challenging them to engage. Taking part in activities that are reinforcing to the child is a good way to start. By letting them know that you respect them and can see the joy they find in their activities you will promote an environment where they can feel comfortable interacting. Forcing a child to interact before this relationship is built, often leads to more withdrawn behavior.

Once the child is regulated and engaged the next goal with this approach is to elicit initiation on the part of the child. No-pressure, child lead activities should dominate interactions until the child is consistently showing intent to initiate or continue activities. Once the child is seeking out interactions, specific cognitive(problem solving, abstract thinking, academics, etc.), motor planning, language and social skills may be slowly introduced. This is most effective when using activities and materials that are reinforcing to the child. For example, if the child likes to be tickled, use this opportunity to begin requiring her to request "more" between tickles. Keeping the activities light and child-directed while respecting the unique characteristics of each individual allows the child to learn skills in ways that are meaningful to them. In addition, participating in these activities in a motivating play setting rather than a discrete trial format will result in more natural and spontaneous initiations, interactions and use of skills by the child. Although demands on the child may slowly be increased, respect for their world should never be put second to those demands. Continual enthusiasm for their interests builds a trusting relationship that allows for maximum learning.

When working with children who have SPD it is important to remember that they are children first and the deficits are secondary. Therefore, it is imperative to understand the behavioral stages of typically developing children. Not only for teaching skills that are characteristic of typical children, but also to recognize when your child's behavior is that of a typical child. Expecting children with developmental deficits to behave in an over-compliant manner is a common mistake in the field. Allowing these individuals to be silly children and taking joy in this with them creates a strong bond and trust that will encourage the child to feel more comfortable interacting in a natural manner. By treating these children as you would a typically developing child you model natural social behavior while building relationships and teaching important skills.

In summary our philosophy is to celebrate the children for who they are. We don't try to change them into a different person. We let them know we respect and love who they are, but want to give them the tools to cope and survive in our society. There must be mutual respect. Relationships between all people, including our children, should be give and take from both sides. We let these children know we respect what is important to them, enjoy some of their world with them. When we do this we are delighted at what they give in return, how quickly they learn, how happy they (and we) are.... Monica G. Osgood 1997-2002
Celebrate the Children uses the Developmental, Individual-Difference, Relationship-based Intervention model (Greenspan-Wieder)


Developmental Individual Relationship-based (DIR) intervention
(Drs. Stanley Greenspan and Serena Wieder)
DIR is an intensive therapy that works off the child's natural interests, emotions and affect to create highly motivating, experience-based learning opportunities. The idea is that all learning is emotional and if a child experiences a concept she will more likely internalize it and generalize the concept to other settings. The basis of the DIR approach is to "help children with special needs connect ideas and develop a logical understanding of the world" (Greenspan/Wieder 1998). Dr. Greenspan states that "teaching children to become independent thinkers enables them to do anything." The way to do that is to "respect the child's excitement while challenging her to become more logical and better adept at abstract thinking" (Greenspan/Wieder 1998). Children may memorize specific skills taught but if they cannot 'think on their feet' their ability to use and generalize these skills will be limited. "Children with developmental challenges often favor rote ways of thinking, and rote learning only compounds the problem" (Greenspan/Wieder 1998).

Celebrate the Children has been implementing DIR in homes and schools for ten years. Data has revealed dramatic improvements in the connectedness of the children, the natural use of language, increased socialization and spontaneous peer interactions, increased imagination and creativity, higher level of abstract and independent thought, independence and the reduction of inappropriate behaviors.

Social skills training is another strong component of the program used foster the understanding of specific social concepts. Because many of the children serviced are visual thinkers, these skills are targeted using posters, books, puppets, workbooks, social stories and role play. Although this aspect of the program is designed around visual presentation, teachers incorporate semi-structured experiences reflecting the visuals to enable the children to internalize the concepts.

Behavior modification and self-monitoring techniques are implemented when needed to change specific inappropriate behaviors. If a child's behavior is disruptive, socially inappropriate or dangerous staff takes data to determine the function of the behavior. Once the function is identified a behavior plan is written for the child. This plan consists of an intervention strategy, social skills training and sensory support if warranted. Social skills training and DIR are a part of every behavior plan to teach replacement behaviors.

Academics based on are targeted using a variety of approaches including Floor Time and visuals. Teachers incorporate activities that target the different learning styles of the children. Visuals, sensory materials and activities, music and movement are often part of academic lessons. Socialization, creativity, problem solving and abstract thinking are infused into every learning experience. As soon as the children are ready they are introduced to academic activities that mirror the mainstream environment they will (or do) participate in. During these activities independence is encouraged.

Speech and language is a part of every component of the program but targeted most intensively during DIR sessions. Visuals are often used to teach and support children with auditory processing difficulties. Specific language goals from the program's curriculum follow a hierarchy of typical language development with a heavy emphasis on age-appropriate social language.