CHILD THERAPEUTIC DAY SCHOOL

The Child Therapeutic Day School (CTDS) is an out-of-district special education school located within the UBHC Building in Piscataway. Its mission is to provide educational and treatment services in an integrated manner to children whose psychiatric and behavioral difficulties are too severe for them to be educated effectively in their local school systems. CTDS includes six therapeutic classrooms with a total capacity of 48 children. Although ages may range from three-and-a-half through thirteen, over 90% of children are between the ages of five and eleven at the time of admission. The educational range is between preschool and seventh grade. Planned lengths of stay typically range from six months to three years, with a very small number discharged during their fourth year. All referrals for the day school are from local school systems or the Office of Education. The sending school districts or the Office of Education support the costs of placement through tuition payments.

The six classes function as autonomous, self-contained, therapeutic classrooms. Staffing includes certified special education teachers, mental health specialists (most function as assistant teachers, and have substitute teacher certification), clinicians, speech/language therapist, occupational therapist, psychiatric nurses, psychiatrists, special education supervisor, and the program manager (who functions as the program director).

The six classrooms include:

  • The Therapeutic Nursery and Kindergarten (our “Greenhouse”) which is open from 9AM-2PM with a maximum of seven children, 3-6 years old, and one teacher and at least one assistant.
  • The Therapeutic Primary which is open from 9AM-2PM with a maximum of nine children, 6-8 years old, and one teacher and two assistants.
  • The Child Day Program includes four classrooms each with a maximum of nine children, ages 7-13 years, and is open from 9AM-3PM, with one teacher and two assistants per class.
CLINICAL SERVICES

Clinical and psychiatric services include individual play or verbal psychotherapy, family psychotherapy, and medication management and counseling. The integration of clinical and educational services is a core aspect of the Child Therapeutic Day School. Clinical and educational staff collaborates in providing group therapy, social skills training, therapeutic activity groups, therapeutic group discussions, behavior modification, and behavioral crisis intervention and counseling. Speech/language therapy and occupational therapy are also provided as needed in accordance with each child’s IEP. All of these services and interventions are imbedded in the overall program or provided during the program day, although family sessions can be scheduled for non-program hours.
All CTDS direct providers of treatment and instructional services participate in regularly scheduled treatment planning meetings. Each child’s plan is reviewed at least once monthly. Parents and guardians have opportunities to have input into the child’s plan, as well as reviewing the written treatment plans and being able to comment on them. Parents are also involved in dispositional planning concerning the educational program and treatment services that will be in place upon the child’s discharge from CTDS.

EDUCATIONAL SERVICES

The program is an approved public college operated special education facility, which is staffed by certified special education teachers. They offer a variety of elementary subjects. The educational program emphasizes subject material and content with the goal of addressing the specific learning needs and concerns of our student population. The education program is accredited by the New Jersey Department of Education and the curriculum is aligned to fulfill the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards. During the course of treatment/education in the Program, the program director and staff work collaboratively with the Child Study Teams to ensure that each youngster’s academic program is in compliance with the IEP (individualized education plan). Collaboration with the Child Study Teams of the sending school districts ensures compliance with the individual educational plan prescribed to meet the needs of each student. The educators and program director provide ongoing information regarding each youngster’s level of functioning within the program. The school program is also an approved state testing site so that students can be administered the required state assessments.

BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT

While each classroom has its own behavior management system, all adhere to the same basic principles. All are based on positive reinforcement. Natural and logical consequences are utilized, and punitive responses are avoided. All involve the setting of individual and group behavioral objectives that are developmentally appropriate, involve increasing and strengthening the coping skills and behaviors that are related to the child’s future success upon discharge, and are both reasonable and achievable by the child. Some of the basic behavioral goals and objectives include maintaining safe and respectful behavior, attending to and following staff directions, using words to communicate feelings and needs, improving social skills (especially cooperativeness), developing effective emotional self-regulation, enhancing self-esteem, and encouraging positive, optimistic thinking. Behaviors relevant to learning and academic success are also a major focus. These include participation, attentiveness, effort, appropriate requests for help, acceptance of instructional help, and task completion (including homework).
Programs make use of visual displays to mark and reinforce behavioral improvement. All utilize a combination of immediate and delayed reinforcement; and both individual and group reinforcement. Some make use of points, point cards, and/or levels with differentiated expectations, responsibilities, privileges, and incentives. All programs are designed to be flexible in order to better meet the individual and collective needs of the current group of children, and to maintain the interest and investment of the children in the behavior management system. Refinements and modifications of the classroom based behavior management systems are made by the teaching staff in collaboration with clinical and supervisory staff. Significant variations of an individual child’s behavior plan are developed by the treatment team and incorporated in the child’s treatment plan.

STUDENT REFERRAL PROCESS

There are two ways that children are admitted to the Child Therapeutic Day School. Most of the children are referred directly from the local school districts. Children who are admitted to the Children’s Transitional Residence attend CTDS for the duration of their period of residential treatment and are enrolled in CTDS by the Department of Children and Families Office of Education. The referral includes Child Study Team evaluations and current IEP. Referred children, who appear to need the integrated educational and treatment program we provide, are invited to have a screening visit to one of our therapeutic classrooms, along with their parents. In most cases the decision as to whether or not to accept a child is made within 24 hours of the screening. If accepted, and the child’s school system and family are in agreement, the child is typically able to start in approximately one week, assuming that there is a current opening.
Referrals, or inquiries about the program, should be directed to the Program Manager, or Education Supervisor, at 732-235-5720. The mailing address is:

Child Therapeutic Day School
University Behavioral HealthCare
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
671 Hoes Lane West
Piscataway, NJ 08855-1392