Visit Reports
Visit Reports

Jan 23, 2007, 08:37

Washington, Connecticut
Kathy Fitzherbert - Director of Admissions

Visit by: Larry Stednitz, PhD, on November 13, 2006

A concerted effort has led to Glenholme successfully and significantly changing their population today. Approximately ten years ago, Glenholme successfully transitioned from predominately agency-funded students through state and county entities. Student referrals are now received from educational consultants, parents and school boards nation-wide and globally. Glenholme now works with clients who do not demonstrate significant acting out and disruptive behaviors. The student body is comprised of a complex and demanding population, co-ed, ages 10 through 18. Students must be at least average in academic potential with emotional and/or learning disabilities. Diagnosis includes Specific Developmental Disorders, Disruptive Behavior Disorders, Attention Deficit Disorders, Hyperactivity Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post Traumatic Disorder, and Asperger's Syndrome.

I have seldom seen a program that has the vast resources that enable a school to provide such comprehensive education and treatment for their students. Glenholme School is situated on 110 acres in the rolling wooded hills of Connecticut and was founded in 1967. The sprawling campus is well equipped with attractive and functional dormitories, classrooms, athletic fields, a gymnasium and administrative offices. The rural campus setting also includes a heated indoor pool, a general store, hiking trails and an extensive activity/art center. There is a go-cart track provides another exciting and interesting activity for the students, and a 20-seat theatre offers interactive student and staff training and other educational opportunities. The extensive activity/art center further provides opportunities for students to find a multitude of ways to express themselves and to develop skills through a variety of modalities. The music building has a choral room with a Steinway and a music lab with seven electronic keyboards. Each cottage has its own key board to continue the opportunities to practice. Students are able to participate in bands in the evenings. Artistic outlets are provided that include plays and concerts, enabling activities like drama, make up, set designs, and playing of a variety of musical instruments. A music therapist is available to assure maximum therapeutic interventions to assist the students in their creative endeavors. Dr. Patrick Qeenan, clinical director, told us that through the school's research, instructional extracurricular activities that creatively engage students promotes growth capitalizing on individual strengths.

Glenholme has developed a sophisticated, positive-based token behavioral system which is designed to change negative behaviors and shape pro-social skills in their students. Dr. Queenan reported that Glenholme students receive immediate feedback helping them to change their negative behaviors. The school uses the behavioral system to not only assist the students progress through the phases or levels for long term gain, but also supports daily appropriate interactions with each other and with faculty. Every day, calculations of the token system are computed, and long and short term goals are reviewed. For example, each student is asked to engage in conversations with students and adults that focus upon the student adjusting their conversations with adults, same sex peers and opposite sex peers. The student must learn to adjust their conversations to engage in conversations that are uncommon for them. For example, if a boy is comfortable talking with other boys about sports, his goal is to learn to talk with girls about topics other than sports. This goal helps students to stretch themselves to learn different communication skills. A benefit of this effort is to help students become more sensitive to other's needs, not just their own needs. For students who have mastered the token economy system and are considered "self-dependent", the system is refined for their new level of functioning.

Families learn and practice the token economy system at home as well. Glenholme uses monthly sessions with parents to help them master the system. These trainings can be taught over the telephone, in person and/or on the Glenholme Parent website. In addition, each student has a confidential webpage where parents access weekly academic, behavioral and social progress updates.

Philosophically, Glenholme works to minimize the excessive use of medications. Upon admissions, the school begins to adjust medications and works at refining the medication intake to the level that seems to be the most appropriate for the individual students.

Glenholme has eliminated most group work, as "best practices" indicates that groups for their students sometimes can create more problems than they are in general purported to address. Often in this population, individuals can inappropriately divulge sensitive information or in some way misuse the information, creating more difficulties among the students. The students each have a master's degree social worker who utilizes cognitive-behavioral approaches with their students. Often, this approach takes on a "real life" situation where the social worker will spend time on campus, helping a student learn more appropriate interactions in a real life situation. The social workers are also responsible for communication with parents.

At Glenholme, the behavioral system is designed to have the greatest impact possible throughout all aspects of the school. For example, at meal times, a faculty member sits with students, helping them interact appropriately with each other. Treatment model and education are well planned, in this writer's opinion, and match perfectly with the population.

During the tour, there were many opportunities to talk with students. They looked great and were well dressed, many wearing coats and ties. It was obvious that the students felt comfortable with each other and had positive relationships with both students and the faculty. The campus had a feeling of genuine respect for adults and students alike, and the kids looked happy and engaged in the school.

Glenholme is accredited by the State Department of Education in Connecticut as well as several other states. It is also accredited by the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. In addition, Glenholme is I20 approved to enroll foreign students.

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