As educational consultants, we are committed to helping families locate the most appropriate educational and therapeutic options for their children. We begin by obtaining as holistic a picture of a child, adolescent, or young adult as possible in order to match an individual’s needs and challenges as well as strengths and capacities to the most appropriate school or program. Our sensitivity to this issue is reflected in the fact that our clients have attended more than 100 different schools and programs, both locally and across the United States. We work with clients throughout the United States and abroad.
Our work involves two distinct areas. First, prior to making any recommendations, we assess the social, emotional, psychological, and educational needs of a child (described below under Our Consulting Process). The second component of our work involves evaluating schools and programs both locally and across the country (described below under Understanding Schools and Therapeutic Programs). In the latter case, our goal is not only to determine whether the school or program is effective and reputable, but also to understand the types of students with which it is most effective.
Our first visit was extensive and we were hopeful that maybe Pat and Ann could find the right place for our son. Now we had someone who understood our child and our journey. Educational Connections has experiences with many facilities and connections to locate the right place.
Not that our journey is over, but now we have professionals who know us and our child and can give us hope and peace in the maze of residential care.
Our Consulting Process
- Assess the individual needs of the client. Our assessment process consists of collecting and analyzing information about each client from multiple sources. In order to fully understand a child’s needs, we never rely on the viewpoint of a single professional nor do we make recommendations based on testing data alone. While complex, our assessment process is not necessarily prolonged. For a child at very high risk and in imminent danger we can provide safe alternatives within 48 hours. For other youth, our assessment is usually completed within 10 days to three weeks.
When working with a family we typically:
- Interview parents extensively about their child’s current situation
- Obtain a complete developmental, social, and academic history (from birth to the present)
- Talk with students to gain their perspectives when appropriate
- Talk extensively with adults who know the youth well, including therapists, psychiatrist and other relevant medical professionals, school counselors, teachers, drug and alcohol counselors, clergy, family friends, coaches, special interest advisors, and resource room teachers
- Review school record data, educational testing, and psychological evaluations and determine if additional testing is necessary
- Review Individual Education Plans (IEPs)
- Identify Appropriate Options. Based on our assessment of a client’s emotional, social, psychological, and academic needs, we identify appropriate schools and programs. With permission of parents, we forward all relevant records and documents to schools, review the case in detail with program personnel or clinical staffs (including relevant themes that have emerged from the data we have collected), and discuss specific ways the needs of a client can be met.
- Review Our Findings and Potential Options with a Family. In the third step of our consulting process we again talk with parents, review our findings in detail, and present school or program options that most closely match the needs of a child. (Note that before we provide options to parents, we have already ascertained that space is available and that the child will be admitted.) In addition, we typically arrange for school or program brochures and materials to be sent to parents and endeavor to put parents in contact with families who have or have had a child in the programs we recommend. Finally, if parents opt to visit potential schools or programs we discuss their impressions and assist them with the final decision making process.
- Follow-up for One Year: We are committed to a long-term partnership with our clients. When working with a family on residential planning and placement we stay involved for a period of one year. This involves regular contact with a school or program to keep abreast of our clients’ therapeutic and academic progress, assistance with transitional planning, and generally serving as a liaison between parents and program personnel when needed. In addition, we frequently visit our clients as we travel throughout the year.
Understanding Schools and Therapeutic Programs
The second component of our work involves evaluating schools and programs across the country. We have visited over 350 residential schools and programs including therapeutic and emotional growth schools, therapeutic wilderness programs, therapeutic group homes, drug and alcohol treatment programs, residential treatment centers, psychiatric facilities, and boarding schools. We have also visited and observed classrooms in a variety of local schools and programs.
Our goal is to thoroughly understand all aspects of the schools or programs to which we refer families. We pay particular attention to the unique qualities and special training of therapists, counselors, teachers, and others who work first-hand with students.
We assess the theoretical framework upon which the school or program is built, the model of treatment, the qualifications and experience of program personnel, and the way in which program components are integrated. We also appraise residential living, recreational opportunities, and the overall physical setting. We talk extensively with students and parents about their experiences.
Finally, and very importantly, we look carefully at the academic environment in order to assess what types of learning needs and styles the school is capable of supporting. Our backgrounds and experiences provide us with the knowledge necessary to understand critical and often subtle differences among specialized schools and therapeutic settings.
Extensive hands-on experience working in both clinical and classroom settings, intensive research concerning issues facing at-risk youth, involvement as members of the Stanford Evaluation Consortium, and specific doctoral training in evaluation and assessment provide us with the background to do this work. (See Our Team for a more detailed description of our backgrounds and training.)
Our Principles and Vision
We strive to understand parent’s values and beliefs and listen closely to their hopes and dreams for their children. We recognize that first and foremost, parents have the most in-depth, comprehensive and long-term experience with their children. We know too that families differ with respect to their expectations and long-term goals. We are committed to listening to and understanding parent’s values and beliefs in order to provide the most appropriate recommendations for a school, program and/or therapeutic setting.
Our recommendations are based solely on our professional judgment and expertise. We accept no compensation from any educational institution or program for referrals and adhere strictly to the ethical guidelines of our professional organization, the Independent Educational Consultants Association. Throughout the year we attend professional conferences nationwide and review current research on teaching, learning, mental health issues and chemical dependency in order to stay abreast of current information about education and treatment.
We are committed to providing parents with as much information as possible (both positive and negative) about any option we recommend. Our goal is to provide families with the most thoughtful, comprehensive, and carefully considered advice possible.
Collaboration on all of our cases enables us to take advantage of our varied perspectives and experiences. While there is a great deal of overlap in our training, each of us draws upon specialized knowledge as we assess the needs of any given student and as we evaluate school and program options.
We make no recommendations prior to fully assessing the needs of a client. We believe that all children have unique and distinctive gifts and challenges in a variety of areas – academic, social, emotional, and physical. We have found that it is imperative to understand all of these areas well prior to making any recommendations. We believe that children flourish when their strengths are validated and their specific needs are addressed.