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TASC - Elementary Level Program Description

Overview
The TASC program is a district-wide program which provides therapeutic and academic support to students in grades 1-5 whose social, emotional and/or behavioral concerns cause them to have significant difficulty succeeding in an elementary general educational classroom. 

Purpose
The goal of the TASC program is to help student develop the skills necessary to manage the demands and stressors faced on a daily basis in the least restrictive educational environment.  The therapeutic setting offers a structured, supportive environment where students’ social and emotional needs are met while accessing the curriculum.  Students are included in the general education classrooms as much as possible, while given the emotional support, behavioral feedback and opportunities to practice social skills they need to succeed.  In addition to a therapeutic milieu and behavior management system, each student in TASC has an individualized behavior plan and access to an adjustment counselor as needed.

Referral Process
Students are referred to the TASC program by their home school educational TEAM.  Records are then forwarded to TASC and, if deemed appropriate, arrangements are made by TASC teachers/staff to observe the student in their classroom.  In order to ensure all least restrictive methods have been attempted, referred students must first have a mental/behavioral health diagnosis, had a Functional Behavioral Assessment completed and been on an individualized Behavioral Intervention Plan for at least one marking period (12 weeks) before the referral process is initiated.  Admission criteria are available upon request.

Academic
Students receive academic instruction in the least restrictive learning environment as determined by their IEP and behaviors, usually a combination of the TASC and general education classrooms.  Additional changes in learning environment occur on an as needed basis determined by a student’s safety level and/or emotional state.  Due to a high staff-student ratio in the program, there is flexibility in the level of support a child receives.  The fluidity of the program allows the students to access support when needed but also work to attain skills independently. When accessing the curriculum in the general education classrooms, students are given the amount of support needed while maintaining the highest level of independence to be successful.

Instruction in the general education classroom, as outlined in Grid B of the service delivery grid, is evaluated on a day by day basis.  A student’s time in the general education classroom is based on his/her current ability to cope, process, follow directions, in the least restrictive environment for him/her to learn. A student’s readiness for inclusion is assessed by his/her ability to make academic progress, exhibit grade level independent functioning and self-control, and to successfully participate in the classroom behavior management structure.  Inclusion instruction will include specials (Art, Gym, Music), specialized instruction (Library, Science, Computers), and areas of academic strength.  In the case that a student’s emotional needs and/or behaviors require increased support and/or specialized instruction than available in the general education classroom to ensure success, he/she will receive instruction in the form of pull out instruction in the TASC classroom. Students are monitored daily while in their general education classes.  This monitoring is tied into the behavior management system used in the program and is reflected on their IEPs and progress reports.

If the students in the TASC program need specialized instruction in a particular content area due to an identified learning disability, the following curriculums may be used to supplement the general education curriculum:

• Reading: Project Read, Explode the Code, Merrill Reading Program, Story Farm, Phonics Guide, Open Court
• Writing: Project Read, Writing Elements, Framing your Thoughts, Writer’s Workshop
• Math: Touch Math, Every Day Math, Encore Math

Special Features
TASC program personnel work to create a therapeutic milieu in which the students feel accepted, safe and contained, yet are challenged to work to their full academic potential.  Due to the high Staff to Student ratio, students are able to form closer relationships with their teachers and other program staff than they might within a larger general education classroom.  This allows staff to know the students’ emotional and behavioral signs and triggers and intervene earlier in the escalation process, resulting in increased use of adaptive coping skills and less time out of the classroom.  TASC teachers and aides support students while in the general education setting according to their needs and as outlined in their IEPs.

TASC personnel track students’ behaviors and take data both in the general education and TASC classrooms, as well as during Specials and more unstructured times: lunch, recess, etc, allowing for more accurate measures of social-emotional progress and assessment than strictly subjective measures.  In addition to classroom observation and data tracking, other informal assessments may be used to track student progress: QRI-4 (Reading), DRA (Reading), Unit Assessments (Math), Term Tests, MCAS scores, FAST (behavior), SSIS (social skills).  Some of these informal assessments are also used in formal evaluations as well.

Counselling
Students involved in the TASC program receive one 30 minute individual counseling and one 30 minute social skills group with the Adjustment Counselor or Special Education staff (Group only).  Additional sessions are conducted if a student is experiencing difficulty, needs additional support or seeks a self-referral.  Individual and group sessions focus on goals and benchmarks identified in the IEP, but can also address coping skills, problem solving, and organization, among others.  A variety of counselor developed and commercially available curricula may be utilized, depending on the age and developmental level of the student.  Some examples are Skill Streaming, Social Stories, therapeutic games, and Social Thinking.

Parent Movement
Parents/guardians are a valued part of the TASC program.  It is important that parents/guardians work with program teachers and staff to develop open two way communication in order to present a consistent and cohesive treatment approach.  Parents/guardians receive daily updates on their child’s behavioral and/or academic progress.  It is equally important for the counselor/staff to be to be aware of issues at home that would have an impact on the school day: medication changes, changes in sleep/eating, health issues, and family functioning.  TASC teachers, staff, the Callahan Principal and the Adjustment Counselor are available via phone, email, or in person to discuss any concerns parents may have about their child’s participation and progress in the program.


Discipline
It is important for students to learn that all of society’s rules and laws will apply to them.  When new to the program, some students do not display the impulse control needed to adhere to the school rules.  Although students may experience different consequences than those defined in the Student Handbook, program staff are continually teaching personal responsibility.  Alternate consequences may be utilized within the program and are tied to the behavioral incentive program (as defined in the Program Behavior Support Plan).  When students are participating in the general education setting, it is expected that they will be able to behave as their typical peers.  Behavior management strategies used in the program are described in detail in the Program Behavior Support Plan section included in this document.


TASC Behavior Support Plan

Environmental and Interpersonal Supports:
• Visual schedule posted daily, reviewed verbally at the start of each day and throughout the day as needed.
• Positive incentives and logical consequences posted visually
• Classroom rules posted
• Direct instruction and daily opportunities to practice sensory motor activities, healthy coping strategies, replacement behaviors, and self-advocacy skills.  Daily repetition helps students generalize these skills to other settings.  Skills are also taught/reinforced during weekly individual and group counseling sessions.
• Staff is trained to utilize positive and effective verbal, nonverbal and paraverbal communication techniques.  Staff is also trained to utilize verbal de-escalation strategies when necessary.
• Students are encouraged to use verbal and nonverbal strategies of communicating their needs in prosocial ways.
• Students are also given the option to utilize prosocial and adaptive means of coping, both in and outside the classroom.  This can include the use of break cards, verbal requests to take a break, sensory motor activities, walks, social stories, etc.
• The low student to staff ratio allows for staff to have multiple opportunities to interact with each student daily.
• Focus is on the positive, with many opportunities for students to earn points throughout the day.  Program staff frequently pair specific verbal praise with the awarding of these points, helping the student to become aware of behaviors that are desired and appropriate in the school setting.

Reinforcement System:
• Students have the ability to earn positive reinforcement four times throughout the day: morning recess, morning choice time, lunch recess and afternoon choice time by earning their points for given time blocks.
• Additional positive reinforcement systems are implemented for those students who need more frequent formalized reinforcement.
• Praise and recognition for use of prosocial skills including but not limited to: perseverance, kindness, respect, on task behaviors, use of adaptive coping skills, etc. is given as often as possible.  We try for a rate of 12 positive comments to 1 negative/constructive comment.
• A 4 tiered level system is also utilized, where students earn points and advance levels for defined desired behavior (safety, respect, focus and responsibility)
• Students fail to earn points due to behavior that is inappropriate or undesired in school (refusal to follow directions/complete assignments, verbal or physical aggression, use of maladaptive coping strategies, etc.)
• Students move through the level system by meeting daily goals.  These goals are individualized based on student strengths and challenges and are designed to challenge the student yet be attainable.
• Reinforcement becomes less concrete as students mature developmentally and get ready to graduate TASC.

Response to Interfering/Escalating Behavior:
Additional Behavior Management Strategies: Although our wish is that positive reinforcement would be sufficient in changing student behavior, students referred to the program have learned maladaptive behavior over a long period of time.  Learning age appropriate replacement behaviors can take significant time.  Behavior which becomes emotionally and/or physically dangerous for the student, his/her classmates, and/or teachers makes the classroom an unsafe learning environment.  The following steps are taken to ensure the safety of all people involved:

1. The student is given a warning and/or redirection about his/her inappropriate behavior and asked to change his/her behavior and/or gain control while remaining in class.
2. The student is prompted to take a break and/or utilize an adaptive coping skill or sensorimotor activity designed to help them calm down and/or refocus on the task at hand.  This can occur in the general education classroom, TASC classroom, or in a designated area outside the classroom (hallway, break room, Nurse’s office, etc.)
3. The student is given a “time out” to sit quietly and regain control in a designated “time out” area.  This is used when a student’s behavior is interfering with the needs of the entire class.  It is used to diffuse the intensity of the situation and to give the child an opportunity to calm himself/herself.  Time outs generally last only as long as it takes a student to restore control, demonstrate they are able to move on, process what happened and to consider other options if a similar situation were to occur in the future.  Students are expected to go to time out with minimal assistance and remain in time out until the above is accomplished.
4. The break room is a time-out space that visually removes the student from his/her peers, allowing the student to have privacy while trying to make a good choice.  Staff may ask a student to take a break in the break room if other de-escalation techniques/strategies are ineffective.  The student is given a set time to remain in the break room.  The student is able to return to class when they have regained control and have participated in a short verbal or written processing with at least one staff member.  Occasionally, other repair work (ie: cleaning up a mess, apologizing, etc.) may need to occur before a student can return to class.  Student initiated use of the break room is reinforced as a positive coping strategy when used appropriately (not as a regular avoidance of a task).  Students are encouraged to choose a healthy learned coping strategy while in the recovery room (for example: deep breathing, wall push-ups, burying themselves under cushions, etc.).
5. In the event a student displays out of control behavior which is determined as dangerous to self or others, physical restraint is used only as a last resort.  This is done in order to provide for the safety and welfare of all involved.  When the student has regained physical control of their behavior, restraint is discontinued.  When the student is able to think rationally, staff will process the event with the student, discuss patterns, precipitating events, and consider alternative coping strategies and replacement behaviors for the future.  All staff who participate in physical management of a student have completed yearly CPI training and comply with the Massachusetts DESE regulations (MA 603 CMR 46.00).
6. If a student’s behavior continues to escalate and he/she cannot work with staff to problem solve, additional options are considered including contacting the parents and/or contacting Riverside Emergency Services.  This is a very rare occurrence.  The teacher will conference with the Principal and Adjustment Counselor and every option for salvaging the day for the student will be attempted.  If this is not able to be accomplished, the family is notified by program staff regarding the incident and requested to take the child home/for emergency screening.  The student returns the following day with a fresh start, and the student and parent can meet with the Teacher, Principal, and/or Adjustment Counselor to process the incident leading to dismissal.  Because going home can be rewarding to some of our students, we request that parents allow no special privileges, ie: TV, going out with parents, or play that day.  All school work missed due to behaviors must be made up.
7. Students are expected to adhere to the safety guidelines and behavioral expectations set forth by the school district while riding the bus.  Consequences for bus infractions may vary as they vary in the general education classroom.  Likewise, students are provided positive reinforcement for demonstrating prosocial behavior (sitting in seat, seat belt fastened, using a low voice, etc.) while riding the bus. 


Graduation/Exiting TASC Program

The TASC program is part of a continuum of care within the Norwood Public Schools, with a TASC classroom at the Middle School and several TASC classrooms at the High School levels.  Students’ participation at each level continues as long as the student’s behavior and mental/behavioral health needs warrant.  Participation in the TASC program is discussed during each yearly IEP meeting. 

Moving on
TASC program personnel at the Callahan work closely with TASC program personnel at the Middle School to ensure as smooth a transition as possible occurs between elementary school and middle school.  This involves inviting Middle School TASC personnel to IEP meetings in the student’s fifth grade year, as well as coordinating transition meetings and facilitating several visits to the middle school prior to transitioning.  In the event that a student moves, necessitating a transfer to another district’s program, TASC personnel are available to consult with the receiving district’s personnel in order to ensure as smooth a transition as possible. 

Graduation
Once a student learns and utilizes prosocial and adaptive coping skills for a long period of time, as evidenced by being on level 3 in the behavior management level system for at least 12 weeks, the TEAM will reconvene to determine the student’s readiness to take the next step towards graduating TASC.  This may include things like increasing the amount of time a student is expected to remain in the general education classroom, increasing the time periods on the progress sheet, changing the schedule for positive reinforcement, among other things.  This is designed to decrease the student’s reliance on the external structure and positive reinforcements of the program and increase their ability to internalize those skills or constructs necessary to adhere to the structure of the general education classroom.  Transitions towards graduation occur as outlined by a student’s needs and the TEAM.  Student and family involvement in this process is instrumental in ensuring continued success.  Towards the end of the transition period, TASC personnel have a party to celebrate the student’s graduation and wish him/her well.

As change is hard for many people, students occasionally struggle and demonstrate “old” behaviors as they are attempting to manage this transition.  These “old” behaviors may even occur for a period of time after the student has successfully graduated TASC.  This is to be expected and is often addressed by the Adjustment Counselor during sessions.   Additionally, ongoing Adjustment Counselor support reinforces previous behavioral change and supports ongoing communication between the school and home environments.

By signing below, I acknowledge that I have received a copy of the TASC program description and have had an opportunity to ask questions regarding program structure and interventions.

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