center: giving kids a safe haven
the lights go out in Courtney Kelleher’s pre-kindergarten class
at the League Treatment Center, students know it’s time to sing
and move on to a new topic. Although the teaching technique may
not be considered unique, the same cannot be said about the student
composition of Kelleher’s class.
Out of the 18 students in the class, 12 are, according to Kelleher,
“typically developed children,” and six children have special
needs. Kelleher’s class is one of the three integrated classes
at the Center’s preschool, a safe haven for children with special
For many of these children hospitalization would be the only alternative.
“We are the next step from hospitalization,” said Carole Kasmin,
director of strategic planning and the former principal of The
League School, a division of the Center. “We keep children out
of hospitals and into the community.”
Dr. Carl Fenichel, an educator and psychologist, founded the Center
in 1953. Fenichel, who supported that organic, neurological or
biological problems led to autism, believed that children should
remain within the family unit, and that parents should serve as
partners in their treatment.
was a very revolutionary idea at the time,” said Stacey Chizzik,
director of the Center’s preschool. The Center opened with only
four children. Today, it serves approximately 500 children and
adults free of charge in five divisions approved as psychiatric
day treatment centers. The center is also approved by the New
York State Education Department.
program is unique because there are very few programs in the city
of New York that combine both educational and clinical components,”
Every morning, the Center’s preschool opens its doors to approximately
126 children, 86 of whom have special needs.
For children with special needs, admittance to the preschool requires
an evaluation for early intervention and preschool special education
that reveals if the child meets the admission criteria and needs
the services available.
An array of services are designed to address their individual
needs. “We provide a continuum of services,” said Chizzik. “Children
are able to move across this spectrum as improvement takes place
and as they learn the prerequisite skills necessary to move into
According to Chizzik, at one end of this continuum, you may find
autistic children engaging in behavior modification programs,
and at the other end, children are enrolled in integrated settings,
such as Kelleher’s class. Children leave the program once they
turn five and are referred back to their local school districts
for an evaluation that determines if they can enter the public
schools. According to Chizzik, the vast majority of these children
do enter public schools and very few remain with the Center and
enter the League School, the division serving children and adults
(ages five-21) suffering from a variety of behavioral and psychiatric
Much like the preschool program, the League School addresses the
individual needs of the students and helps them acquire the skills
needed to exit the program and enter the community as soon as
possible. The school’s work-study program attempts to do just
program prepares students for the transition from school to work.
They learn to complete a task, how to evaluate that task and job
behavior,” said Kasmin.
Once students turn15, if they are ready, they are placed in various
positions inside and outside the school. In the past students
have worked for organizations such as DHL, Marriott and non-profit
want them to maximize their potential and get them back into the
public sector,” said Kasmin. “The most rewarding thing for me
is to see children that otherwise would be hospitalized remain
in the community.”
Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel:
(212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of
the publisher. © 2001.