As the first ever school for the deaf and hard of hearing in the United States, the American School for the Deaf (ASD) has had hundreds of children walk through its doors.
Although each journey is unique to the child and his or her family, there are some common concerns parents express as they navigate the decision of whether or not a residential option is right for their children.
By far, the top concern of parents is separation, notes Karen Wilson, Director of the PACES Residential Treatment Program, Coordinator of Psychological, Counseling and Evaluation Services. “We meet this concern with both empathy and support,” she said.
Parents want to know: 1) How long will I be separated from my child? 2) How can we stay connected? 3) How will their safety be ensured while away from home? 4) How do we keep a seamless transition between home and school?
1) How Long Will My Child and I Be Separated?
It is hard for everyone in the family – the student, parents, siblings and extended family. Supports must be in place for the whole family to help them through this initial phase and get everyone acclimated and comfortable. Contrary to what may be assumed, home visits right away are discouraged. It’s in the student’s best interest to settle in and learn about their new “home away from home” without the distraction and confusion an immediate home visit could create.
2) How Can We Stay Connected?
While home visits are discouraged right away, maintaining a close connection is paramount. Families are encouraged to connect every night via FaceTime, Videophone (VP) or Skype so they can see one another, engage in conversation and share typical details of the day that would ordinarily happen around the dinner table. Once students have settled in, they are welcome to enjoy home visits. In the event the child is not ready to go home yet, there is on-campus housing provided for visiting families. During on-campus visits, families can spend time with one another, eat together and even take off-campus outings if deemed appropriate.
3) How Will Their Safety Be Ensured While Away from Home?
The American School for the Deaf is licensed by the State of Connecticut Department of Children and Families. To keep this licensing the school must meet strict criteria and is reviewed quarterly. In addition, we have a state-of-the-art campus security system. From a behavioral perspective, ASD was a pioneer in the application of the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS ) framework to alternative settings, including residential. In addition, PACES was recognized as a Model Demonstration Program by the CT State Department of Education/State Education Resource Center (SERC) in 2015. PBIS is a strength-based positive reinforcement framework. Since implementing this framework in 2011, ASD has eliminated punitive approaches to discipline, such as time-out rooms, and has seen a dramatic decrease in unsafe student behaviors. The three school-wide expectations to be respectful, responsible and safe are clear and students are reinforced for adhering to those values.
4) How Do We Keep a Seamless Transition Between Home and School?
Our staff works with families to have shared expectations between home and school. Families are encouraged to use the same techniques and tools for consistency and to avoid any confusion that could lead to conflicts at home.
While a residential treatment program may not be the “right fit” for every child, the benefits of an integrated program that provides rigorous education with appropriate supports can be a life changing experience for some children. To learn more about the American School for the Deaf’s PACES Residential Treatment Program, visit www.asd-1817.org/asd/paces.