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What Is a Therapeutic Day School?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 07 May 2020
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A therapeutic day school provides education and support to children with disabilities and behavioral problems. Some may focus on specific populations, like children with developmental disabilities or autistic children. Others are open to a broad spectrum of students, although they may exclude children who could pose a safety risk. This can be an alternative to mainstreaming in the public school system or attempting to educate children at home. Grants may be provided to help low-income children attend, in some cases.

Before a student enters a therapeutic day school, a staff member conducts an evaluation. The student’s medical and academic history can be reviewed to make sure the school is a good fit and develop an appropriate educational program. These facilities offer a mixture of classroom education as well as therapy. A student with physical disabilities, for example, could attend regular classes in addition to therapy sessions to improve strength and flexibility.

Single and group counseling is often available at a therapeutic day school for students with mental illness and behavioral problems. Tutors can help students who may be struggling with academic subjects, and mentoring may be offered for students interested in learning trades. Many schools have large campuses to provide room for students to engage in recreational activities. Working farms and other facilities may be situated on site for students to use in therapy and as educational resources. A student with cognitive disabilities, for example, might enjoy connecting with horses as part of a therapy program.

Attendees of a therapeutic day school may need to have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that discusses goals and how to handle subjects like discipline. This document can be periodically reviewed to determine if it is still meeting the needs of the student. Some schools may exclude children who pose a risk to their own safety or the safety of others, such as someone who is abusing drugs or setting fires. These students may need treatment in special facilities to address their behavioral problems and provide educational resources.

Cost of attendance at a therapeutic day school can vary. Some may operate as charitable organizations, often associated with religious groups, in which case there may be a sliding scale or tuition could be free. Others are operated as private schools and may require tuition. Parents who feel a student would benefit from placement but are concerned about costs can discuss financial aid options with school officials to determine if there is a solution.

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