Child Therapeutic Day School (ages 4-13 years)

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

The seven classrooms function as autonomous, self-contained, therapeutic classrooms. Staffing includes a psychiatrist, a Clinician Supervisor, a Principal, clinicians, certified special education teachers, mental health specialists, some of who function as assistant teachers and have substitute teacher certification, psychiatric nurses, a speech/language therapist and an occupational therapist.

The seven classrooms include:

  • The Greenhouse classroom has a maximum of seven children, four through seven years of age, with one teacher and two assistant mental health specialists. The school day runs from 9:00am - 2:00pm and the curriculum emphasizes enhancing the needs of the whole child. It includes a focus on functional, social and emotional skill development, language development, perceptual and cognitive development, gross and fine motor skill development, academic readiness skills and sensory process skill development.
  • The Therapeutic Primary classroom has a maximum of eight children, six through eight years of age, with one teacher and two assistant mental health specialists. The school day runs from 9:00am - 2:00pm.
  • The other classrooms within the CTDS include five classrooms which are open from 9:00am - 3:00pm each with a maximum number of eight children, seven through thirteen years of age, with one teacher and two assistant mental health specialists.

Clinical Services

Clinical and psychiatric services include individual play or verbal psychotherapy, family psychotherapy, medication management and psychiatric assessment and treatment. The integration of clinical and educational services is a core aspect of the Child Therapeutic Day School. Clinical and educational staff collaborate 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 (Individualized Education Plan). All of these services and interventions are embedded 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/or guardian participation is critical. At minimum, parents/guardians will meet with the treating Clinician once per week for family therapy. As partners in treatment, parents/guardians provide input into the treatment planning process and play a key role in the helping the child meet his/her goals in school and at home.

Educational Services

The program is an approved public college operated special education facility which is staffed by highly qualified special education teachers. They offer the required 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 and the Common Core Standards. The CTDS is also an approved state testing site so that students can be administered the required state assessments.

During the course of treatment/education in the program, the Principal and staff work collaboratively with the child study teams to ensure that each child's academic program is tailored to their needs and in compliance with the IEP. We take pride in providing a positive, safe school climate. The program provides many activities for the students including assemblies and field trips with the goal of making it feel like a more traditional school setting with the overarching goal of sending a child back to district or to a less restrictive setting.

Behavior Management

While each classroom has its own behavior management system, all adhere to the same basic principles that are grounded in the use of positive reinforcement. Natural and logical consequences are utilized and punitive responses are avoided. The treatment teams craft 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 and cooperation) 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).

The classrooms 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 system 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 into the child's treatment plan.

Student Referral Process

There are two ways the children are admitted to the Child Therapeutic Day School. Most of the children are referred directly from state 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 program we provide, are invited to have a screening visit to one of our therapeutic classrooms, along with their parents/guardians. In most cases the decision as to whether or not to accept the child is made within 24 hours of the screening. If accepted, and the child school system and family are in agreement, the child is typically able to start in approximately two weeks, assuming that there is a current opening and the schools are able to contract for transportation. Referrals, or inquiries about the program, should be directed to the Principal or Clinician Supervisor at 732-235-5720. The mailing address is:

Child Therapeutic Day School
University Behavioral Health Care
Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences
671 Hoes Lane West
Piscataway, NJ 08855-1392

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