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Outdoor Schools

The semi-outdoor therapeutic model is often passed over by parents and clinicians looking for long-term placement. This is surprising since it is one of the oldest, most studied, most effective models for therapeutic schooling ever developed.

Introduced in the deep South and mid-Atlantic states in the ‘fifties and ‘sixties, the model has not been widely replicated outside of those regions despite its success with both male and female students.


This may be because it is a group-focus behavioral model that eschews traditional therapies, including, in some programs, any use of psychotropic medicines. Additionally, the "no frills, primitive skills" nature of the children's living environments often frightens and confuses parents who are used to providing their children with a surfeit of material goods and stimulating experiences as well as relying on therapists, special educators and other professionals to assist them in the parenting role.

These schools can provide exceptional academic and vocational training. Using techniques and strategies originally developed to deal with desperately disadvantaged or learning disabled youth, today it is not unusual to see a freshly-motivated student catch up as much as two whole school years in their 12-18 month average length of stay.

The type and amount of family involvement varies by program. So also does the profile of students served: some facilities continue work only with adjudicated youngsters; others are all private pay; still others mix the populations. It is important, therefore, to know what market the program caters to as well as keeping track of the ratios at time of placement before making a commitment.

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