High Turnout for a Wellness Focus at Therapeutic Schools Conference

NFI Regional Director of Schools and Clinical Programming Kym Asam Delivers a Keynote Address at the Therapeutic Schools conference

170 teachers, special educators, behavioral interventionists, and clinicians showed up on a bitter cold day in October at the Killington Grand Hotel to share their work and build their skills in supporting some of Vermont’s most vulnerable and struggling students.

The day began with two keynote addresses by long-time leaders in the Vermont Therapeutic Schools community, Kym Asam from NFI and Kelly Perline from Howard Center’s Jean Garvin School.  NFI is one of Vermont’s key leaders in trauma-informed schools, and Asam brought home the importance of self-care.  Perline inspired the group to bring their authentic selves to the work.  She shared funny and relatable stories about her own growth as a clinician.

Participants spent part of the day in role-based discussion groups, sharing expertise and strategies.  In the afternoon, schools offered wellness workshops for their peers in areas that could be used with students to support self-regulation, such as flow yoga, miniature painting, clean eating, and dragon riding.   Schools created Wellness Baskets as gifts for each other to close the day.

Therapeutic Schools Meet an Essential Need in the Vermont Education Landscape

Washington County Mental Health Clinicians Angela Fagginger-Auer and Cara Cascadden from CHOICE Academy at the 2019 Therapeutic Schools Conference

Vermont has a reputation for valuing the provision of high-quality services in the least-restrictive and most community-based setting available, whether the need is educational, or mental health.  The therapeutic schools in the Vermont Care Partners network embody those ideals.

Over the last ten years, Vermont families have experienced increasing stressors, such as opiate addiction, DCF involvement, and financial stressors.  Many schools, childcare providers, and youth residential settings have noted that this has led to increasingly dysregulated and violent behavioral challenges among the student body.  According to the Vermont Independent Schools Associations, only about 100 students received their education at therapeutic schools in the 2008-09 school year.  In 2019-20, that number is over 400.

Vermont Care Partners’ Therapeutic Schools are unique. Not only do they provide trauma-informed, evidence-based clinical supports in the students’ communities, they also ensure that students and families are wrapped with essential family- and home-based care so that whole family systems can heal.

This year’s Therapeutic Schools Conference was organized exclusively by Vermont Care Partners’ Therapeutic Schools Leaders, including Lisa Bilowith from the Jean Garvin School, Michael Dooley from East Valley Academy, Drew Gradinger from Kindle Farm, Allie Graft from Fay Honey Knopp, and Michelle Boucher from ChOICE Academy.

The Vermont Care Partners network offers a wide array of school-based therapeutic supports, from school-based clinicians, behavioral consultations, one-on-one behavioral intervention services, and innovative and flexible models of school-based consultation and coaching for students and teachers. See our 2018 Outcomes Report (p. 17) to learn more about our school-based services, their strong upstream prevention focus, and their impact.