Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ackerman Institute Launches New Special Needs Project

Ackerman Institute for the Family is excited to launch a new project for families who have children with special needs, including autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, sensory processing disorder and other developmental disabilities. The Special Needs Project will increase services for this population and train mental health professionals to address their unique needs and promote family resilience.

Ackerman faculty member Judy Grossman, DrPH, OTR, will be working as Project Director. Judy discusses her reasons for starting the project by saying that “Despite the increasing diagnosis of children with special needs, there is a shortage of high quality family-centered treatment. The early intervention and special education systems remain child-focused and fail to help families cope with the cumulative challenges they experience raising a child with specials needs.” The Project goals are to offer family therapy and multiple family discussion groups to more families who have children with special needs; to increase the capacity of family therapists to work with this constituency; and to offer workshops to professionals who work in special education schools and agencies.

The Special Needs Project will focus on child-related concerns and support parents as they cope with family stress and interactions with larger systems. Families will be seen at the Ackerman Treatment Center by an experienced family therapist who is part of a specialized treatment team. This team will collaborate to develop quality family-centered services and training materials for other professionals.

Project Director
Judy Grossman
Project Director Judy Grossman says that: “Too often, the attention is focused on the child with special needs with little recognition that parents are the most important influence on a young child’s development and the entire family is affected when a child has a developmental disability. Family needs are even greater when there are unresolved issues around diagnosis, services and family beliefs. Parents often feel anxious and unsupported. They may be busy with appointments, meetings and daily activities with their child, with little time to focus on their own needs, the marital relationship or the typical sibling. Family therapy addresses these concerns, yet it is not readily available to these families, or therapists do not feel confident to work with these families.”

Another way to expand family-centered services is to educate other professionals so that they consider family goals and priorities and focus on family strengths. The Special Needs Project will provide training and education to professionals working in special education schools and agencies. In addition, Ackerman Institute will continue to offer workshops that build on the team’s clinical work with families.

To learn more about the Special Needs Project, or how you can get involved, go to www.ackerman.org or contact Judy Grossman at jgrossman@ackerman.org.

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