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Green Chimneys Partners with Parents of Children with Special Needs

March 22, 2018

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October 19, 2015


Parenting can be extremely rewarding and enjoyable, and it can be one of the most challenging and humbling experiences of one’s life! For parents of children with special needs, this rings particularly true.

The therapeutic milieu at Green Chimneys is designed to help children develop better emotion regulation skills and more effectively manage behaviors – whether they are spending time at the farm, participating in classroom assignments, or interacting with fellow residents in the dorms. We find that we can more successfully meet these goals when we collaborate with parents, and help them build their own skills in supporting their child’s growth and development. The more highly engaged the family in a child’s treatment, the more likely new skills and behaviors will be maintained.

Regular communication with families is a priority for both our clinical and direct care staff. And since parents are the experts on their children, we encourage them to participate in treatment meetings and family therapy sessions, as well as psycho-educational workshops. For years, we offered trainings in topic areas including child development, clinical diagnoses and treatment, medications, etc., and parents were responsive but we continued to hear: “This is all great information but what do we actually do?” Parents wanted to learn specific techniques for managing their child’s behavior at home. 

First we taught them the basics of Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI), a mandatory training for our staff to learn about the crisis cycle and how to intervene and manage crisis safely and effectively. Still, there were many questions about how to achieve long-term change, not just deal with individual incidents. In 2011, we entered into a partnership with Yale University to study the effectiveness of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) with children, a cognitive behavioral model that uses a variety of techniques to change thinking, mood, and behavior. We began training parents of the participating children in DBT skills for caregivers and the response was overwhelming; they were thrilled to learn concrete skills for behavior management, and to set the stage for real change. In an effort to reach all of our parents – not just those whose children were part of the study – we introduced Alan Kazdin’s Parent Management Training (PMT), an evidence-based parenting curriculum that provided the basis for the DBT caregiver curriculum. Participants were equally pleased with the practical knowledge they gained, as well as the support they felt from both the staff and other parents.

Thanks to funding from the van Ameringen Foundation, Inc., Green Chimneys now offers each of these trainings to all of our parents and caregivers and over the next year, we will roll out a series of workshops incorporating both PMT and DBT for children. We know that no parent can go it alone. We all need the strength and experience that others can bring in order to provide our children with the best support we can, and the best opportunity for success.

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