League for Emotionally Disturbed Children, “An Experimental Program for the Education of Seriously Disturbed Students,” 1955

League for Emotionally Disturbed Children brochure, Box 2,  Folder 10. Courtesy of the Brooklyn College Archives and Special Collections, The Papers of Dr. Lauretta Bender.

Complete original source available here.

Founded in New York by a group of 20 parents in 1950, the League for Emotionally Disturbed Children opened an experimental private day school in Brooklyn in early 1953 to provide education for children with severe behavioral and emotional disordersall of them excluded from public schools. This excerpt comes from the first draft of a 1955 proposal for a 10-student pilot project under the joint auspices of the League and the New York City Board of Education. The League hoped to determine what type of personnel and pedagogical methods would be most effective in educating severely disabled students in a regular public school environment. The project did not go so far as to anticipate that these students would be included in regular classrooms or even that the public would fully fund the program it proposed. It merely asked that public schools accept these students and provide them with some form of special education. The annual budget attached to the proposal suggested that the Board of Education pay for two teachers and clerical assistance as well as space and supplies. An additional two teachers, a social worker, a research consultant, and a psychiatrist would be financed by the League.

There is in the community a group of children whose needs are not met by existing educational facilities. These children, for want of a better term, have been described as “seriously disturbed”. This term applies to no specific clinical entity; rather, it is descriptive of the child who for a variety of unknown reasons has not been able to function adequately….

The right to an education, like many of the rights we enjoy as free citizens—we usually take for granted. Yet, the seriously disturbed child is excluded from our public education system entirely, or, in a number of instances, is provided with but a few hours of home instruction which at best is pitifully inadequate for his needs.

In recent years the advance in our knowledge and treatment of seriously disturbed children have indicated the advisability of keeping such children in the community and in the home if we are able to help them….

With no possibility of educational and other services becoming available for their children, the parents organized the League for Emotionally Disturbed Children to help seriously disturbed children everywhere regardless of race, color, creed or financial situation….

Recognizing the need to demonstrate the feasibility and practicability of providing a suitable educational experience for seriously disturbed children, the League sponsored an experimental private day school which opened its doors during February of 1953…. With the successful experience of the League School and other experimental programs which have demonstrated the feasibility and practicability of an educational program for seriously disturbed children, the New York City Board of Education can now participate in the setting up of the experimental educational program we propose on a much firmer basis of knowledge and experience than heretofore.

We propose that an experimental class be set up under the sponsorship of the League for Emotionally Disturbed Children and the New York City Board of Education that could serve as a pilot project to determine the kinds of personnel and educational methods required to help seriously disturbed children to achieve the maximum degree of social adaptability and intellectual development. We recognize that due to the definition of function, the Board of Education may be able to meet the cost of only part of the program and other aspects will have to be met thru private funds. The League is therefore prepared to meet the costs of services not provided by the Board of Education. The blending of public and private funds working towards a common goal is most appropriate in a program of this type….

We anticipate selecting 10 children who live within reasonable travelling distance from the school building chosen, preferably in Manhattan. The referrals of the children would come from schools, hospitals, social agencies, clinics, psychiatrists, parents and others. The children selected are to be from 7 years thru 9 years of age….

The general aim of the school program is to help the seriously disturbed child attain behavior appropriate for his age…. The essential feature of the program would be an individual and individualized relationship between the teacher and the child, since the seriously disturbed child is able to make adjustments to learning situations only on the basis of a relationship with some one individual….

The program is therapeutic in that the teaching is predicated upon an interpersonal relationship between teacher and child, upon the basis of which skills will be taught and routines established at a pace at which the child can absorb them. It is educational in the sense that this will proceed not through relational interpretation but through a mixture of emotional experience. The program will teach the usual academic subjects, but they will be introduced at a faster or slower rate depending on the particular level of readiness of the child….

Because of the individual nature of the work that has to be done with the seriously disturbed child, 4 teachers will be needed for the 10 children contemplated in the program. Each child is thus provided with a central figure who is with him constantly from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. except for necessary interruptions. The teachers will also guide the parents in their handling of the children at home and will interpret the school program to them….

It is anticipated that it will continue for a period of three years. Sponsored by the League for Emotionally Disturbed Children and the Board of Education, the project will have an outstanding child psychiatrist who will be professionally responsible for the program….





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