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Helena, MT: Part II on SPED; 'List is really long' of behavioral disabilities in district

Dec 24, 2018, Helena (MT) Independent Record: Shodair partners with Helena schools for therapeutic learning programs Editor's note This is the second story in a two-part series about the rising number of Helena students with special needs, and the programs available to them. Autism isn’t the only condition on the rise in the Helena school district. The number of Helena students with emotional disturbance, a term defined under state law, has risen 53 percent over the past five years. In 2013, 75 students within the district struggled with emotional disturbance. That number has grown to 115 in 2018. … Jenna Eisenhart, lead clinical primary therapist at Shodair Children’s Hospital, said the term refers to “mental health issues/diagnosis or behavioral concerns that impact a student’s ability to access education or other services on a lower level.” “The list is really long,” Eisenhart added. … This increase in students with emotional disturbance led the district to enter a partnership with Shodair Children's Hospital to form the Therapeutic Learning Center last August. The program is located in the hospital and resembles a traditional classroom with a therapeutic model. The two special education administrators, Sean Maharg and Sean Morrison, described the program as “for when a child’s emotional, behavioral and social behaviors could benefit from support." The Positive Behavior Support program addresses some of the same needs as the Therapeutic Learning Center but on a less intense level. Morrison said it doesn’t address the therapeutic side, but rather focuses on the behavior and academic side. The program is a small group setting and has access to general education, Morrison said. … The students in the program are those that need more one-on-one assessment regularly. Shodair achieves this through a very low student-teacher ratio, currently about 2 to 1. The program services kindergarten through fifth-grade students. Kayla Steffan teaches kindergarten through third and Karri Horning teaches third through fifth. Additionally, both of the classrooms have a teacher’s assistant. Alongside Brewer himself and therapists such as Eisenhart, the program focuses on each student’s education using a team approach. Each classroom has a therapist, teacher, teacher’s assistant and behavioral coach. …

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