Therapeutic Programs – Creating Opportunities for Exceptional Students – Even in Summer

 In Camelot Blog
Teacher Brittany Wilson works with a TDS student.

Teacher Brittany Wilson works with a TDS student.

While school’s out for most by mid-June, the 2015-16 school year has not yet ended at some Camelot campuses. In fact, all seven of Camelot’s Therapeutic Day Schools in Illinois continue with their Extended School Year (ESY) through July 28.

But why extend the school year? Some students’ IEP (Individualized Education Plan) calls for an extended year. If there is evidence that a student loses ground over holiday breaks or summer, Camelot’s IEP teams discuss whether that student needs ESY to maintain their skills and may require that student to attend a summer session. Only those students who need it continue into the summer.

The idea is for these kids to sustain the growth that they’ve made academically, behaviorally and socially, and practice generalizing them in other environments outside of school.

“For children with special needs, we design a program utilizing therapies, support and instruction to address those needs,” said Camelot’s VP for TDS’s Theresa Mortl Smith. “As school-based teams, we work to help children make progress toward their goals and do so in a supportive school environment. For some children, the work we’ve done can fade if those students do not have support and practice for a couple of months. When they come back to us it can be very difficult for the child to go through that period again of re-learning and new practice. The preference is to keep going, keep practicing and get into the community because ultimately we want the students to successfully re-integrate back to their home school. That goal can best be met by attending our summer program.”

hands pic

An art project created during ESY.

The school day remains the same length as during the regular year, though the activities can be more fun than your average summer school session.

“We augment the summer session with different kinds of projects and outings to keep things interesting for the students at a time when they wouldn’t normally be in school,” says Mortl Smith. “Of course we continue the traditional programming from the regular year as well.”

For students in the 18-22 year old Adult Prep Program, Camelot has secured jobs in which students are gaining and practicing skills. Camelot’s job is to best prepare these students for life beyond Camelot and once they are in the APP program the goal is to support that process so that they can gain the most meaningful employment possible after they leave Camelot.

For teachers and staff at Camelot’s TDS’s, the summer program means much less vacation time than their regular school peers, but that is a part of their jobs they embrace.

“Camelot staff are big cheerleaders for our kids and we know that having them with us in the summer means that we are maintaining the great growth that they’ve made,” Mortl Smith says. “It would be difficult for us to see a child leave for summer and come back having lost ground. We want to continuously help them strive to be the best that they can be.”

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