Working to overcome the core underlying emotional obstacles with multiple methods of interventions
Upon enrollment, an initial clinical evaluation of the student and a parent meeting are both conducted to identify the underlying causes of the student’s school avoidance and any other emotional challenges that are present. Specialized questionnaires are completed by the student and his/her parent(s) and prior efforts by school and mental health professionals are reviewed as well in order to fully develop a successful individualized treatment plan.
Pathway’s clinical staff are highly experienced licensed mental health professionals with an extensive background in the treatment of children and adolescents and a specialized expertise in the treatment of school avoidance. The clinician working with the student in Pathways remains his/her therapist during the entire stay at Cornerstone, which greatly increases the student’s comfort when he/she transitions to the mainstream setting. When appropriate, students also regularly see Cornerstone’s board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrists who are at the school on a daily basis so that any urgently needed sessions are provided immediately.
The clinical regimen at Pathways is always tailored to each student’s individual needs and follows the core model of Cornerstone Day School. Programming typically includes twice-daily group therapy, one that is insight-oriented and one that is a DBT-informed psycho-educational group. There is also weekly individual and family therapy and in the service of supporting the attendance and participation of Pathways students, clinicians and/or the Supervisor of Pathways spend time with each student every day that he/she is in the suite.
Treatment typically includes gradual exposure procedures, anxiety-reduction exercises, coping strategies and individualized incentive programs to reinforce school attendance and motivate a student to attend regularly. Such plans typically involve providing meaningful rewards/privileges for successful school attendance while discouraging absences.
Certified therapy dogs are a regular part of Pathways. These dogs help students relax and enjoy Pathways, increase motivation to attend school and enhance connectiveness with peers.
For some Pathways students, home visits play a very important role in treatment, particularly early in enrollment. The general objective of each home visit is to motivate the student to attend school. Home visits can occur well before district transportation arrives, giving the student ample time to get ready for school but can also take place after school hours as well. During pre-school home visits particularly, the staff assists parents to implement strategies that will help the student to go to school on that day.
Parent Support, Education and Coaching
Supporting parents in their efforts to overcome their child’s school avoidance and other emotional challenges is very much part of Pathways. In addition to home visits, a wide range of services are available for parents:
- Weekly family therapy, along with morning and evening phone calls are used to both update parents about the student’s school day and review strategies to be used at home to support attendance and overcome any immediate obstacles.
- Parents of school avoidant students are offered a specialized twice-monthly education and support group that helps educate parents about school avoidance and focuses on effective solutions. The group, called P.A.S.S. (Parents of Avoidant School Students) provides an opportunity for parents to learn more about school avoidance and successful intervention as well as gain mutual support from other parents who share their struggles.
- Parents are invited to a weekend “Parent Retreat”, shortly after their child begins enrollment, that includes parent education, support and a presentation from graduates to so that parents hear first-hand from students how best to benefit from the overall Cornerstone Experience.
Support and guidance for students and parents is core to Pathways clinical services. Our 24-hour 7-day per week call line is always available to our students and parents when there are any important questions or struggles outside of school hours. Parents find this availability particularly helpful in managing any difficult moments with their child, particularly on the weekends.