Chamberlain School was founded in 1976. The founders William Doherty and Jeanne Edwards still run the program on a daily basis as Executive Director and COO respectively. At the time of my visit, the school had 98 students, ranging in age from 11 to 18, but they can also take students aged 18 and above. The average length of stay is 18 months. Thirty-five percent of the students are on the autistic spectrum and roughly fifty percent of the students are diagnosed as ADHD. Chamberlain serves emotionally/ socially fragile adolescents who have failed at less restrictive interventions. They also accept a wide range of diagnostic categories including bi-polar, OCD, PTSD, anxiety, the full range of mood disorders, non-verbal and verbal learning disorders and emerging personality disorders. Chamberlain School will not accept sex offenders, fire setters or students with highly aggressive behaviors.
Intellectually, the Chamberlain students range in IQ's in the 70's to well over 100. Approximately fifty percent of the senior class students are college bound. Colleges attended by recent graduates include: Johnson and Wales, Curry, Hampshire, Landmark, Plymouth State and St. Michaels to name a few.
The campus is located on 15 acres and has the feel of a college campus. Multiple well-maintained buildings include dormitories, dining area, classrooms and administrative offices. Each dormitory includes other facilities like classrooms, dining areas, nursing and an area for speech and language specialists. Each of the eight dormitories also has their own kitchen area. Students are placed in dormitories based on their individual needs, for example, the co-ed dormitory includes both older girls and younger males, allowing the girls to nurture the boys and for the boys to have older female role models.
Life skills are an important focus of Chamberlain. Students learn to maintain their living quarters, cooking and other life skill activities. All students have a variety of household responsibilities in their dorm. These chores are rotated through the students, giving each an opportunity to learn how to care for their own living quarters. The students are also able to participate in a variety of activities intended to broaden their school experience. Students can participate in a variety of recreational activities, art, gardening, computer training, horseback riding and even aviation.
The program manages behaviors through a simple, but effective point system. The point system is designed more to be a tool for documenting behaviors over time to better understand the student's progress and level of functioning. The level system also monitors behaviors. Chamberlain reports that their turnover of residential staff is minimal and that all of the supervisors have been at Chamberlain for over 10 years, providing stability and consistency. Chamberlain has an impressive staff to student ratio, one staff for every four students.
The school embraces a team approach to treatment. All departments meet daily to get feedback on each student, again serving to monitor progress and to adjust treatment strategies. Additionally, a clinician is assigned to a specific dorm and provides individual and group therapies for these students. The therapist is also responsible for parent communication. Adding to the strength of clinical and residential programming, the clinician and the residential supervisors meet frequently to assure a tight system and a unified approach. In effect, Chamberlain then has several small programs creating a simpler management of students and creating an environment for the students that is less overwhelming. This system assures a small dedicated multi-disciplinary staff for each dormitory. Therapist to student ratio is one to twelve, and the clinicians use a variety of approaches. Since some students respond to dialectical behavioral approaches, some to systematic desensitization and others, cognitive behavioral approaches, the clinicians strive to adjust their therapeutic approaches to the needs of each student. Chamberlain School also has two Psychiatrists on-staff that share a full time position. Both have been with the school for over 10 years and are integrally involved in their treatment.
Touring the campus allowed me to talk with students and to see them in action in classrooms, dormitories and dining room area. It was clear that the students were engaged in a variety of activities, designed to increase their social, emotional and academic competency levels. They were open to discussing their experience at Chamberlain and spoke confidently about their school life and their progress.
April 04, 2007
What is missing from Chamberlain is a badly needed gymnasium.