Message from the Unit Director of Emotional Disabilities

I am extremely proud to have been a part of the Therapeutic Day Program (TDP) since its inception in 1990. It has been a wonderful experience to help create this unique school program for students with emotional and behavioral difficulties and watch it grow and evolve over the past 25 years into the state-of-the-art program it is today. It is truly a remarkable place because, contrary to what the preponderance of the educational and psychological literature pertaining to students with significant emotional and behavioral difficulties indicates, the vast majority of our students make substantial gains, both academically and behaviorally, while enrolled in the program. Furthermore, the majority of students who attend the program are able to successfully transition back to their public schools or meet the criteria for high school graduation in a relatively short time (1 to 3 years).

Despite the diverse nature of this student population, virtually all of the students and families referred to our program share a common experience. They all feel some degree of emotional distress from the cumulative effect of the child's ongoing difficulties in his/her previous school placements. Recurring difficulties in school can take an emotional toll on the child and the family, and in many instances, the child and the family are in crisis and quite apprehensive about what lies ahead. It is highly comforting for me to know that our program is here for these students and their families, and that our staff has the expertise, the temperament, and the resources to provide them with the support they need.

Within the Therapeutic Day Program, first and foremost, we promote a culture of compassion, patience, and respect for our students and we believe that positive relationships with our students form the basis for positive change. This core belief underlies all of the intervention strategies utilized within the program. Additionally, it is abundantly clear that positive behavioral supports, or pro-active strategies, should serve as the foundation for the behavior management approach utilized with this student population. Evidenced-based strategies such as high rates of positive reinforcement in response to desired behaviors and social skills training enable students with difficulties to experience success, learn new behaviors or coping strategies, and gradually gain confidence in their abilities to inhibit problematic behavior patterns.

Education for students with emotional and behavioral difficulties must be comprehensive in nature. It must include instruction in the standard curriculum and instruction that addresses a specific child's particular deficit area. It must be a flexible approach that adapts to the child's varying levels of attention and motivation, yet it must also include enough structure to provide a framework for learning. Education for this student population must account for the varying emotional needs of students and for the wide array of behaviors, some quite severe, that can interfere with a child's ability to learn. In short, it is a very complex and challenging process that is fraught with many potential obstacles that account for why these students require such specialized programming and successful intervention is not easily achieved.

The Therapeutic Day Program's long history and the accumulated expertise associated with this history make it an exceptional place. We have developed a comprehensive and highly effective educational approach to working with this student population which has met with considerable success over the years. The program has a culture of compassion and respect for students that is embraced by virtually all of our staff and we truly enjoy the many wonderful children who come through our doors. We are thrilled to see them leave much happier and capable than when they arrived and many of these children also leave their mark on us. I know my work here has had a profoundly positive impact on my life and I am fortunate to be part of such an extraordinary experience.

Daniel French, Ph.D.
Unit Director, Emotional Disabilities
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Cooperative Educational Services
40 Lindeman Drive
Trumbull, CT 06611

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