CTC Program Outline
1. Developmental Individual Relationship-based
Floor Time (Drs. Stanley Greenspan and Serena Wieder)
The development of each individual child is targeted through intensive child-led therapy (DIR). Therapists work off the child's natural interests, emotions and affect to create highly motivating, experience-based learning opportunities. These play sessions can be one-on-one with a therapist/parent, a therapist/parent and two children or a therapist/parent with a group of children and can take place in the home, school or community. Despite the organization of the sessions, it is imperative that the lessons be experience based(with an emotional component) and highly motivating. 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). More rigid approaches focus on changing specific behaviors, or teaching very specific skills. Children may memorize the 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).
2. Structured Social Skills Training
Social skills training is another strong component of the program used to enhance the understanding of specific social concepts. Because children on the autistic spectrum are so visual, these skills are targeted using posters, books, puppets, workbooks, social stories, teacher-made videos 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.
3. Behavior Modification Techniques
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 strengthen the developmental weaknesses responsible for the behavior and to teach replacement behaviors.
Often children in the mainstream require some behavioral support to facilitate self monitoring and independence(especially children who have been exposed to more rigid interventions in the past or have severe sensory disturbances). This support usually consists of a plan to ensure consistency between staff and parents in responding to the child, sensory breaks if needed and visuals to remind the child of expected behavior, rewards or consequences, steps to activities and schedules.
Academics are targeted using a variety of approaches including DIR and visuals. Teachers incorporate activities that target the different levels and 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 also 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.
5. Speech and Language
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.
Greenspan, S., M.D., Wieder, S., Ph.D. (1998). Learning to Think Abstractly. Scholastic Early Childhood Today May/June 22,23.
Greenspan, S., M.D., Wieder, S., Ph.D. (1997).
The Child with Special Needs: Encouraging Intellectual and Emotional
Growth (1997). Addison Wesley, NYC.
Celebrate the Children
School for Children with Alternative Learning Styles
Celebrate the Children provides 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. The program is based in a public school in Mt. Arlington, New Jersey where children ages 3-10 receive self-contained and inclusion intervention focusing on development, social skills, behavior, speech and language and academics.
Celebrate the Children also provides services to children (Pre-K through 6th grade) and staff in many other public and private schools in New Jersey. Support to other schools includes consultation, training of staff, and therapy to children. Home programs operate during off-school hours and are individualized to the child. A six week summer camp is offered and open to out-of-district students ages 3-15. The camp integrates typical and special needs children full time and focuses mainly on social skills.
The developmental philosophy, social skills and behavioral support, and the involvement of typical peers and family members are important factors in the success of the program.
STRUCTURE AND ORGANIZATION
The Mt. Arlington Program
The public school program includes a pre-school disabilities classroom, a social skills/sensory room, full inclusion and mainstream support for children in grades K-3 . It operates 187 days a year. Pre-schoolers attend 9-2:00 and mainstreamed students attend 9-3:20.
A behavioral consultant works in all areas of the program overseeing the behavioral, social and developmental aspects. A certified special education teacher works closely with the behavioral consultant, in addition to running the preschool program.
Staff trained by both the consultant and special education teachers work as aides in the classroom and shadows in the mainstream, as needed. Teachers in the mainstream classrooms are also trained and have close communication with all program staff. Speech, occupational and physical therapist work in the classroom and pull students out for individual therapy only when necessary. A Psychologist, Learning Disabilities Teachers Consultant, Social Worker, and Registered Nurse comprise a full Child Study Team.
CLASS MAKE UP AND DESCRIPTION
The preschool classroom is comprised of ten students with a range of deficits(including five children from sending districts). Although the day is broken up into specific activities, the following developmental areas are targeted throughout the day:
- Motor Planning and Sequencing
- Regulation/Sustained Attention
- Sense of Self/Independent Thinking and Problem Solving
- Peer Awareness/Theory-of-Mind/Interpersonal Relationships
- Understanding Emotions in Self and Others/Appropriate Expression of Emotions
- Symbolic and Imaginary Play
- Abstract Thinking and Reasoning
- Much time is spent working on specific goals for each child that reflects the D.I.R. model. The flexibility within the classroom, allows for spontaneous follow the child's lead play, where learning is natural and the child is shown that his language and communication are meaningful and powerful. Some structured activities within the classroom include:
- Circle/High-affect, Experience-based, Group Academic and Social Skills Lessons
- Obstacle Courses/Thinking Goes to School activities
- Self Expression/ Creative Art
- Specific play skills
There is one full-time teacher and six aides in the preschool classroom, as well as integrated speech and OT services. Two of the mainstream students have aides. The mainstream classrooms have one teacher and one aide to approximately 18-25 students.
INTEGRATION OF SERVICES
Speech, occupational, and physical therapists work part time as staff in the preschool classroom. Some of the children in the program get pull-out speech, OT, and PT. All the children in the program attend social skills groups and receive individualized social skills training, as needed. The students in the mainstream receive academic support from the resource center and developmental, behavioral and social support from the behavioral consultant.
Celebrate the Children is an eclectic approach designed to meet the needs of the individual child. The backbone of the program is the Developmental Individual Relationship-based (D.I.R.) approach 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.
The program curriculum was created by Monica G. Osgood, Developmental Behavior Consultant based on a variety of approaches. The predominant component of the curriculum is the D.I.R. model. Goals and objectives are written into each students IEP to reflect this model. Other models used in developing the curriculum, goals, and objectives include: Cognitive behavioral therapy, specific social skills training, Visualizing and Verbalizing (Bell), Piaget's theory of development (Thinking Goes to School Furth and Wachs), Theory-of-Mind training (Teaching Children with Autism to Mind-Read Howil, Baron-Cohen & Hadwin), and others. All sections of the curriculum, including academics, reflect the above models.
FUNDING AND COSTS
The Mt. Arlington program is state funded. In district students receives services paid for by the district. Out-of-district students pay a full-time tuition of $19,880 per year. Related services are additional. Costs for summer camp, home programming and consulting vary.
Celebrate the Children
School for Children with Alternative Learning Styles
The following is our framework that reflects the DIR model while fulfilling the requirements of school districts. Teachers and school staff require specific measurable goals in all areas of development. Our standardized training, curriculums, planning tools, etc. foster the growth, understanding and acceptance of the DIR approach in public and private schools.