Pat and Ann helped me to find the best fit wilderness and therapeutic boarding school for my 14-year-old son. It was a very hard decision for me to seek help and send him away, but I believe that it saved his life. Instead of a drug and alcohol using, high school drop-out felon that he might have become, he is a mature young man doing well in college with a bright future and an understanding of his emotions, motivations and actions. I recommend their service to any parent seeking help with a troubled child.
- Sophia, Washington


Struggling Adolescents and Pre-Adolescents

Parents of adolescents often face challenges for which they are little prepared. As parents ourselves, we know it is often difficult to combat pressures that can divert young people’s attention from school or pull young people towards the norms of peer groups that jeopardize their chances for a productive adult life. We find that some parents have struggled with challenging children from an early age only to find that at adolescence, problems become even more intense. Other parents describe teens that bear no resemblance to the easy-going, happy, attentive and cooperative children they once knew. At Educational Connections we assist families in exploring alternative educational and therapeutic environments for young people experiencing difficulty. We work with:

  • Oppositional and defiant teens
  • Adolescents unable to resist negative peer influences or who engage in increasingly risky behaviors
  • Youth who experience significant social difficulties
  • Adolescents experiencing a worrisome decline in school performance
  • Teens who refuse to attend school
  • Adolescents struggling with emotional, behavioral, and mental health challenges
  • Young people who engage in self-destructive behaviors such as self-mutilation, sexual promiscuity, and those who struggle with eating disorders
  • Teens abusing drugs and alcohol including those who are chemically dependent

Often families come to us after they have tried a number of local resources. For example, many families have already enlisted the help of counselors, therapists, or outpatient drug and alcohol programs only to find that these services are simply not powerful or encompassing enough to alter the self-destructive paths of their children. We know and understand, through first-hand knowledge, the options that are available to parents with struggling teens. We have visited and assessed therapeutic wilderness programs, emotional growth schools, therapeutic boarding schools, drug and alcohol programs, residential treatment centers and psychiatric facilities throughout the country. We are also familiar with schools and programs for adolescents with learning differences as well as a variety of summer programs and options for struggling teens.

Children with Learning, Attention, and Developmental Differences

Parents of children and youth with learning differences, attention difficulties, and social skills or developmental issues often face tremendous challenges. Sometimes a child’s learning problems will go undiagnosed for years. Other children struggle with school settings that lack adequate resources, teachers without specialized training, or student/teacher ratios that prevent adequate individual attention.

It is not uncommon for bright children with learning differences or attention difficulties to struggle with routine learning activities, to experience social difficulties, or to be labeled negatively by their teachers. Similarly, children with social skills or developmental problems may struggle with peer relationships so significantly that they lose interest in school. We appreciate the challenges faced by these children and their parents and recognize that an approach that works for one child may not work with all.

We are knowledgeable about schools that work effectively for students with a variety of learning differences. We are also familiar with summer program options for this population.

The clients we work with typically struggle with one or more of the following difficulties:

  • Language-based learning differences
  • ADHD
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Non-verbal learning differences
  • Visual or auditory processing difficulties
  • Executive functioning challenges
  • Math disorders
  • Dysgraphia
  • Emotional regulation and mood issues that emanate from frustration due to learning and developmental issues

When working with students with learning differences and their families, our emphasis is on understanding a student’s strengths and assessing those areas that need further development. We are aware of a variety of schools that use state of the art approaches to learning emanating directly from research that identifies best practices for addressing learning differences. 

Students Building
Boy and Girl Using Computers
Young Adults
Group of Young Adults in Seattle
Young Adult Working

Young Adults

We work with young adults 18 years and older who are struggling to make the transition between adolescence and adulthood. Our goal is to help young people acquire the knowledge, life skills, education and training necessary to assume healthy, satisfying and productive lives.

Assisting young adults can present special challenges. Often parents come to us worried about the difficulty that learning differences or developmental issues have played in delaying their child’s acquisition of adult roles and responsibilities. Other parents are concerned about their child’s lack of social and emotional maturity due to their involvement with drugs and alcohol. Still other parents are aware of barriers that their child faces because of significant psychological or mental health issues. For any variety of reasons, some young people have interrupted their education and are unable to take the steps necessary to move forward to work, college, or technical training opportunities.

For young adults who are struggling there are frequently benefits to be gained from participation in a transitional independent living program. These settings typically promote independence and responsibility through opportunities for work and continuing education as well as by emphasizing basic independent living skills. In addition, they often include therapeutic and drug and alcohol recovery components. Other options include colleges or programs designed exclusively for students with learning or developmental differences.

Parents of young adults who utilize our services include those with:

  • Social, emotional, psychological, and psychiatric issues
  • Drug and alcohol issues including chemical dependency
  • Educational needs such as assistance with the transition to college, completion of a high school diploma and/or specific technical skills training
  • Learning and developmental differences, including Asperger’s Syndrome, dyslexia, ADHD, processing difficulties and/or other learning challenges
  • The need to acquire independent living skills, work experience, self-discipline, self-reliance, and the motivation necessary to assume adult roles and responsibilities.

Our backgrounds in program assessment and evaluation, mental health issues, and at-risk youth provide us with the experience and knowledge necessary to understand the subtle differences among the options available for young adults in order to help families make the best possible decision.

School Planning and Guidance

Choosing an appropriate school or preschool setting is one of the most important decisions parents make. Given the wide variety of options available, it can also be a difficult and confusing choice. Finding the right environment not only requires adequate time to research possibilities, but also knowledge about the type of setting that will promote a child’s optimal development.

Our goal is to help families understand the most important differences among early childhood, preschool and private elementary school options. We also assist parents and youth in identifying private middle and high school alternatives.

Educators differ radically in their beliefs about the “best” practices for children. We find that parents often have many questions. How does Montessori differ from Waldorf? What is meant by “progressive education?” Which schools are more academically challenging? Which are more concerned with the arts? Which are best at protecting and supporting a socially vulnerable child or a child with learning differences? And finally, which can support a gifted child who is under-challenged or bored in school?

Because we have visited the schools that we recommend, we have first-hand knowledge about available options. During our school visits we talk with teachers and principals, observe classes in action, and talk with students. When meeting with parents, we gather in-depth information about their child and the family’s goals and priorities.

School Planning
Boy Learning Outside
After more than a decade of counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists and their medications, many ER visits, a police incident and short term hospitalization, Pat Phelan and Ann Davidson were among the very few that understood what we were going through and the only ones able to save our daughter. After all of those years and professionals it was clear to us that treatment in Portland was not sufficient to help our daughter. We were lost and wandering in a jungle of doctors that claimed expertise and support they could not deliver. Our daughter was in crisis and well down a path of self-destruction when we met Pat and Anne. They quickly completed their assessment and placed our daughter in a safe environment. They provided continuous follow-up and helped guide the direction and course corrections for her treatment. Our daughter is still on a path of self-healing (perhaps a life-long journey), but now she has the tools and experiences to help her appropriately engage and respond to life’s daily stresses and challenges. Pat and Ann’s warmth and compassion and continuous support both directly and with the parent support group have led Mom and Dad to recovery, as well.
- Sara and John, Oregon

I connected with Pat Phelan during a time of great stress in our household. She brought focus, a vast amount of personal knowledge and experience and compassion to my search for a proper placement for my daughter who lives with significant mental health issues. Pat helped me to identify the right placement and then continued to work on our behalf throughout the time that my daughter was in residential care. Although I have never had the pleasure of meeting Pat in person, she visited with my daughter while she was in residential treatment and my daughter still holds fond memories of that visit. Pat was a Godsend to our family during a time of significant need.
- Kelly, Alaska