The Child Mind Institute Launches Summer Program Transcribed By Lydia Liebman
Education Update sat down with Dr. Mandi Silverman, the Clinical Psychologist and Michelle Kaplan, the Clinical Social Worker behind the new Child Mind Institute Summer Program.
Dr. Pola Rosen (PR): Given the fact that we’re in a changing environment of leadership in the United States, what’s the best thing you suggest be done for kids with special needs?
Dr. Mandi Silverman (MS): We here at the Child Mind Institute are focused on providing evidence based care to children with mental health difficulties. What we aim to do with our summer program is help children maintain the gains that they’ve been achieving over the course of the school year. When school ends in June we have them with us in July. We provide any boosters or additional support in August so that they are ready to begin the year again in September. We want to make sure children are getting the best support they need for their behavior and social difficulties.
Michelle Kaplan (MK): I think a big part of the work we do with children is parent support as well so our summer program will offer weekly parent training. For 90 minutes a week we’ll be going over the skills we are teaching these kids everyday so that they can reinforce the behaviors at home. We actually invite all caregivers to participate in training. The more caregivers involved, the better the outcomes. We are going to offer ongoing parent training and ongoing consultations even after the program is over.
PR: What is the importance of a small student-teacher ratio at the Child Mind Institute Summer Program?
MS: The child-adult ratio is three children to one adult every single moment of the program. It really gives a high level of clinical support and intervention so that children, throughout the course of the day, as they’re engaging in structured and non-structured activities, are really getting the support they need for specific goals. We’re never going to stop reminding them or reinforcing their progress.
MK: One thing to add as to who our staff are: we’re the program directors but we also have other clinicians and psychologists who will be head teachers in the classroom. We’re bringing on a special education teacher as well that’s going to be providing ongoing learning support in the morning. The councilors are all going to be psychology undergrad or grad students that are looking to get more experience in this field. We’re going to provide a lot of training and coaching to help them work one to one with the kids.
Lydia Liebman (LL): What differentiates your program from other similar programs for children in the 5-9 year range?
MS: One thing that differentiates us from other programs is that, similar to other programs here at the Child Mind Institute, we are an evidence-based practice institution. That means that what we’re doing in this program is that we’re following a manual that’s been supported by a ton of research that says not only is this effective but it can be done summer after summer, it’s helpful for children and families at home and in school… so we are really staying in line with what the literature is telling us is helpful and effective. The other thing is that we are going to be based on the Upper East Side and it’s the only program of its kind in that location. It’s being held only in July so that families can enjoy August and the rest of their summer.
PR: How many children do you anticipate will enroll in the summer program?
MS: We hope to have anywhere from 24 to 36 children. It would be up to 12 children per group and they would be age matched.
MK: A big part of our program is helping kids develop social skills. We want to help them build up their self-esteem so that they start to feel really good about being in a program and making friends. These are kids that may have been kicked out of camps in the past or struggled with after school activities. We want them to come away from this program feeling good about themselves.
PR: How do you track the progress of children in the summer program?
MK: We love data and we track everything. We’ll be getting measures from parents and teachers about how their children are doing pre-program and then after the program. Daily we will be tracking progress. All kids will be working toward different behavioral goals. They’ll be getting points literally every time they’re doing something. If they’re following direction they’ll get one point, for example. This will translate at the end of the day to rewards. We will then track that data and show parents.
PR: How do you train parents to do the “right” thing with special needs children?
MS: We really try to meet parents where they are and with their specific struggles. We teach them what the actual skills are from an intellectual standpoint. As they start to slowly and gradually implement skills at a time we then make sure that they’re asking questions and are able to practically help them apply the skills and manage their own stress in doing so. When parents are intervening with behavior there’s a very disruptive component to it, which is then very stressful for families. It’s really teaching them the skills, helping them implement them and then coaching and helping them manage the feelings that come with it.
PR: What would you advise parents who use negative reinforcement to regulate their children’s behavior?
MS: Time outs or punishment techniques are certainly part of the intervention strategy. But we like to think of intervention for behavior as a pyramid. At the bottom, the foundation is the positive enforcement and at the top is the removal of privileges. So it’s part of the picture but we advise parents to view it as the salt on the meal. With positive behavior support we want to talk to the parent about catching the child being good so she’s really changing her focus to the positive behaviors rather than the negative ones.
LL: What are your hopes for the Child Mind Institute Summer Program?
MK: We’re really excited about this being our first program. Our hope is that we can expand age ranges over time. Right now we are targeting kids ages 5-9 but we would like to go older and younger to meet the needs of more kids. We’re thinking about the option of expanding the time from three weeks to a longer period. #