Summer school program serves students with special needs

MOORHEAD, Minn. (Valley News Live) - Summer can be a time for relaxing and forgetting for students -

"The summer slide does happen," says Duane Borgeson, the Executive Director of Learner Support Services with Moorhead Public Schools.

- but not for all Moorhead Public Schools students and families - thanks to the district's partnership with Solutions Behavioral Healthcare Professionals.

"This summer, they're using our space at Ellen Hopkins to run some of their programs," Borgeson says. "They're working with our families of course, so it's important for us to see our families succeed as well – so that's why we give Solutions a space to use."

The program helps students with complex behaviors and their families learn new skills to make the next school year even better – with fewer outbursts and distractions, and more learning opportunities and friendships.

"It gives the kids a chance to have some structured activities, some fun activities to keep routines going. It's important in just keeping that structure and routine going throughout the summer," says Borgeson.

"It's for kids who have some pretty significant social deficits," says Denette Narum, Solutions' Clinic Manager."Anxiety, depression, ADHD, oppositional defiance disorder – or disruptive behavior disorder."

"Some of the challenging behaviors that I see are aggression, impulsivity," says Morgan Lenoue, who works with the students as one of Solutions' School Liaisons. "I go into their classrooms with them. I provide skills such as helping them with problem solving, coach them through calming down, do a lot of role-plays. Help them take breaks – just so that they can be in that classroom environment with their peers."

"It helps kids with learning how to basically do school. Being able to sit, concentrate, raise their hands, being able to navigate social relationships – sharing, helping each other, being able to play together cooperatively. And then also problem solving. So if something happens that they don't like – to be able to talk about it and then deal with it in a way that's more productive than counterproductive," Narum adds.

The program has been a success across the board.

"It's pretty incredible, actually, what we've seen. It has some really great outcomes," Narum says. "We see about an 85% reduction in overall behaviors with kids when the parents are involved in the parent component and the child is involved in the Dina School component. We see about a 55% reduction if the child is the only one that does the program."

"I have one child in my head right now where I met with him in an individual therapy session after he had done Dina School last year, and he said, 'I have so many friends this year. So many kids like me!' And he was just beaming," she continues. "We see kids that just feel more successful and that's going to help them feel happier and do better and learn more."

And it isn't only the students who benefit.

“About 95% of parents say their relationship has improved with their child," Narum says. "We see parents that are still using these skills years after they've taken the parenting class."

"They feel like they're not alone. They have the support from the leaders and the other parents in the room," says Lenoue.

But the program isn't cheap, and as the need for services like these continue to rise – part of Solutions' funding is falling.

The United Way, one of the program's sponsors, has changed its funding structure. Now, Solutions' program is receiving fewer resources - and leaders are concerned about how this will impact local families.

"It grows every year. Last year I think we had 60 or 70 referrals – about 65. This year, we had somewhere around 85 referrals to the program," says Narum. "It's a growing need and it's a niche that we want to continue to be able to fill because the outcomes are great."

"With a loss of funding, we would have a decreased number of students seen – and it would impact those kids," Borgeson says.

"We try and get as much paid for through insurance as possible. And some insurance companies pay at a higher rate, and some pay very little to nothing," says Narum. "It's an expensive program and most people would not be able to afford it, and so it's important that we have grant funding and other kinds of funding streams to be able to support that."

Solutions staff say despite the setback, they plans to search for new partners – so they can continue to help local students succeed.

"I just see more kids being referred in the schools so yes, I would say it's very much in high demand. It's important that we continue to serve the clients in this community," Lenoue says.



 
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