Seeking out a therapeutic program requires a process more fundamental than the selection a of traditional school setting in which seeks to enhance or improve the the talents and abilities of a student. Again, call a professional- a family therapist, an educational consultant, a psychiatrist- to begin the process. The situation demands expertise. Step back, take a deep breath and realize that the child’s behaviors may be more complex than they seem and, that as a parent or someone else close to the family, you may not be able see the situation objectively. Take the time to evaluate everything.

Therapeutic assessments and environments provide the opportunity to step back and examine a child’s fundamental building blocks. Why is the student acting out, smoking pot, defiant, angry, refusing to do homework, or, more fundamentally, refusing to attend school?

An assessment will likely begin by examining the fundamental building blocks in the child’s life. The child may, for whatever reason, lack a sound foundation from which to grow. The first order of evaluation is to examine the foundation to see if anything is amiss.

Is the child safe? Can the child make decisions that that keep him or her safe? How does the child see himself or herself? Positive self image, self esteem? Does the child build healthy relationships? Does the child have good relationships in place. How does the child interact with authority? What is the nature of the child’s relationship with his or her peers? What does the child think about school? How does the child see his or her future?

The family, and the child’s place within the family will also receive scrutiny. Traditional school works with the student. In traditional school settings, the family functions well enough so that the parents and students can consider a school that meets the child’s needs.

In evaluating a special needs child, assessment and treatment incorporate the entire family system, which may need attention and adjustment. Parents cannot be objective about the family structures and relationships for which they bear responsbility.

Assessment, evaluation and treatment are th e fundamental differences. In choosing, families have the luxury of concentrating on character development, maturation, academic rigor, and academic skills. The mainstream student buys into notions of education and desires to participate and grow. The student wants to be in school and will work to keep himself or herself safe within the environment. In short, family functioning is intact and most things are going well.

With the child and family in crisis, the family does not have the expertise to look at the needs of both the child and family. The therapeutic family must commit to trusting health care professinalsand implementing strategies created by them.

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