Our therapeutic day school serves students from surrounding Chicagoland counties and public school districts who are in need of alternative school programming which is supportive, therapeutic and educational. Our program provides alternative educational and therapeutic supports to children, adolescents and young adults ages 6-22 who struggle with emotional, behavioral, academic, and developmental needs requiring an alternative academic environment to promote success.
Due to the nature of the students’ needs, a full array of related services are available as needed within the school day including Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Substance Abuse Counseling, Transition Counselor support, Psychiatric and Psychological Consultation.
Each student is assigned an individual primary therapist who delivers individual therapy weekly and provides case management and crisis management and support as needed throughout the day. Primary therapists also support family therapy and regular communication with families about the student’s progress. Students also participate in group therapy weekly, which takes place in the classroom setting along side similar aged peers. The primary therapists have routine consultation and training to build their expertise with a wide variety of issues related to the concerns students may experience with an emphasis on incorporating the family in the student’s treatment and progress. This requires that parents/families be available for regular family therapy contact with the VCA therapist. Therapists are available during the school day to accommodate student and family needs.
The therapists also support Extended Day services at VCA, which provides extended services to specific students that may require additional and extended care past the typical school day hours. Additionally, therapists support monthly Family Night activities.
The SEDOL Diagnostic Program at VCA, is an alternative educational setting designed to provide individualized programming within the framework of an academic and therapeutic environment. When a student’s current placement is seemingly not meeting his or her emotional, behavioral, or psychiatric needs, the school district and parents may be in agreement that an alternative placement is necessary for a temporary time period to further assess the student’s educational needs. The student can be a regular education student needing an alternative placement while undergoing an Initial Case Study Evaluation, or it can be a Special Education Student needing an alternative placement while undergoing a reevaluation. In either case, the student would receive these evaluations along with the individual, group, and family counseling traditionally offered at South Campus. The Diagnostic placement is a 60 school day program. At the end of those 60 days, a staffing is held to review all of the diagnostic data and observations. Special education eligibility will be discussed; if a student is found eligible for special education services, an individualized education plan (IEP) will be created, or the existing IEP will be modified as needed. Placement options will also be discussed. If the student is not found eligible for special education services, a plan for the student’s transition back into mainstream classes will be formulated. Referrals can be made directly to VCA's Diagnostic Coordinator.
INTERIM ALTERNATIVE EDUCATIONAL SETTING (IAES)
An IAES is required whenever a student has been involved in a behavioral infraction, leading to his/her expulsion from the home school district. Continuation of services is mandated at the time of an expulsion. The IAES program at VCA will 1) enable the student to continue participating in his/her general academic curriculum; 2) enable the student to continue receiving services and modifications listed in his/her IEP; and 3) include services and modifications designed to address the behavior that led to the disciplinary action. This placement will include Case Study Reevaluation components, updated behavioral, therapeutic, and academic observations, and intensive therapeutic interventions for the student and his/her family. This IAES placement is a 45 school day program. At the end of those 45 days, a staffing will be held to discuss the reevaluation, update the IEP, plan for the student’s transition back to their prior educational placement, and/or discuss other appropriate placement options.
Both the Diagnostic and IAES programs are a unique combination of academic and therapeutic services presented in a highly individualized manner so that the needs of each student can be met most effectively. Students enrolled in both of these programs intermingle in classrooms with a minimum of ten students and at least two teaching staff to ensure the maximum amount of one-on-one support.
The staff within the Diagnostic and IAES programs believes that all students can learn and be successful. Through the development of supportive and nurturing relationships, our staff enables students to make academic progress and learn the skills necessary to succeed. A primary goal is to allow students to understand their own behavior - how it affects their interpersonal relationships, and opportunities for success. Students are encouraged to learn new, more appropriate ways of interacting in order to get their needs met. With guidance from faculty, students focus on and evaluate their behaviors as being supportive, or non-supportive, or their desired outcomes. Problems that may arise during classroom activities are seen as opportunities for growth and learning. Our staff utilizes a cognitive/behavioral and narrative problem solving approach to help students identify the challenge and practice more successful behavioral alternatives. While students may experience the logical consequences to problematic behavior, the approach is always positive and non-punitive. We do not encourage the use of isolation, physical restraint or other aversive interventions unless needed to ensure the safety of the student and school milieu. Instead, we utilize effective social skill building and creative behavior modification techniques designed to help each student develop strategies to improve his/her educational performance.
The behavior management policies of the Diagnostic and IAES programs are highly individualized, using both anticipated and actual behavior problems as positive teaching opportunities. A consistent cognitive restructuring is used to help the student learn the skills and behaviors necessary to succeed in the school environment. When problematic behaviors arise during the school day, our staff will work with the student in identifying alternative ways in which the situation could have been handled. At times, students may persist in disruptive and/or disturbing behaviors. When this occurs, staff will make every effort to remove the immediate stressor from the situation. If a student is deemed to be a possible threat to his/her own safety, or the safety of others, therapeutic holding and restraint may be necessary to ensure the safety of all involved. Our staff is fully trained in the Crisis Prevention Institute guidelines of such intervention.