July 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Springboard School reflects on its long history of serving bright children with developmental differences.

This fall, we began our fourth year at Lubavitch on the Palisades (LPS). It has been a happy and fruitful collaboration.

We have been affiliated with three institutions, and have had three names. Over time, we have grown and we have evolved, but the core of our philosophy and our curriculum has remained the same. In 1978, Dr. Doris Allen, a visionary in the field of developmental disorders, founded the program at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University. I was privileged to join the staff that first year, and have been with the program ever since. Dr. Allen created a curriculum to help bright young children with a variety of developmental problems. This was, and still is, an underserved population.

Dr. Allen’s curriculum focused on developing social skills and the ability to self-regulate. From the start, parents were included in the treatment of their child. This kind of curriculum was unique and was considered radical at the time.

In 1995, we moved to the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly. During our time at the JCC we began to work with Dr. Michele A. Dunn, who had devised a comprehensive social skills curriculum for school-aged children. She trained us in this curriculum and encouraged us to create a preschool version, which we did. This new curriculum allowed us to greatly expand what had always been our focus.

We now had a method for breaking down aspects of social skills and self-regulation, and teaching them directly through role play, stories and visuals. Parents were always included in this process, and encouraged to follow through at home. Then in 2019, we moved to LPS, and we are now called The Springboard School.

Our expertise in treating young children has been enriched by our partnerships with each of these very different institutions. At Albert Einstein, we were affiliated with the medical school and we trained psychiatry residents to work with children with developmental problems. This honed our thinking about diagnosis and treatment possibilities.

Claire Santoro is a graduate of our Einstein program, class of 1993. Nonverbal when she started in our program, she is now in her 30s, an educator herself, and happily married. She credits our program for giving her a “chance at a bright future.” She said, “I am absolutely certain that I would not be where I am today without the kind, patient and loving early intervention at the Therapeutic Nursery. We are all eternally grateful for your thoughtful care, patience and support.”

At the JCC, we were part of a large service agency, where our students could join typical children in after-school programs, camp and nursery school. We began to think about the importance of inclusion and the possibility of training teachers of typical children.

Eitan Ofeck graduated from our JCC Therapeutic Nursery program in 2005. His mother, Anat, shared that “Eitan has come a long way. From no eye contact, imperceptible speech, inability to focus or sit still, and extremely low frustration tolerance, to a kid that has friends, is responsible, does well in school, fulfills obligations, and is a warm and kind person.

“We, as parents, would not be where we are today and Eitan, as an individual, would not have achieved as much, if we had not been lucky enough to attend this program. We will be forever grateful to Lois and her amazing team.”

At LPS, we are integrated into a school setting. Many of our students attend mainstream classes at LPS half of the day. This provides further opportunities for us to develop ways of helping teachers of typical children, who frequently have children with developmental and behavioral issues in their classes. We now offer a teacher training program for LPS teachers. One teacher has even joined our staff part-time in order to broaden her teaching skills for her LPS classroom. We also continue to explore the benefits and challenges of inclusion for our own students.

I have been privileged to be with this program since its inception, and to participate in its growth. I am pleased to have been involved with training generations of amazing teachers and therapists. Each one of them has contributed to the richness of our curriculum. And I am so proud of our alumni and their families, for all they have accomplished individually and together, since graduating our program.

To learn more about The Springboard School at the Lubavitch on the Palisades, visit thespringboardschool.org or contact Lois Mendelson, PhD, director, at [email protected] or 917-692-8298. Students are accepted year-round and there are a limited number of spots available for the current school year.

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