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Presentation 9: The schools we recommend Administrator

         50 Calle Del Rio
Los Lunas, NM 87031

505-866-9271
info@sandhillcenter.org

Sandhill (http://sandhillcenter.org/) is one of a few specialized residential treatment centers that have experience in therapeutic and remedial work with internationally adopted post-institutionalized children. Sandhill accepts children from 5 to 14 years of age. It is a small group setting and that has no plans for expansion: up to 32 residents in a farm-like place in rural New Mexico countryside. A typical length of stay is 12 to 18 months. On arrival, psychological conditions of most Sandhill residents include mood dys-regulation disorder, extreme anxiety, attachment issues, defiance, temper tantruming, and/or manipulative behavior. One common feature is a distinct emotional dys-regulation that interferes with child's functioning in the age-appropriate manner. Sandhill works with children who are a challenge for traditional therapeutic approaches, whose problems have persisted for a long time, or those who have not shown significant response to a less intensive therapeutic intervention. This profile presents typical internationally adopted children who arrive to the US with various degrees of neuro-developmental deficiencies, resulted from their detrimental and traumatic past. Some of these children require specialized therapies within an overall therapeutic environment to enhance maturation of their central nervous system, particularly emotional and behavior self-regulation.

Philosophy and treatment methodology

Sandhill leadership and staff have impressive clinical credentials and base their work on the individualized developmental approach to each child's condition, utilizing the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) developed by Dr. B. Perry. The treatment is based on the notion that development mediated by trauma results in relational, emotional, and physiological dysregulation of the affected child. The treatment goal is to teach a struggling child how to build and maintain healthy age-appropriate and socially acceptable relationships with parents, adults and peers in the process of daily living and schooling.
In order to facilitate and internalize the change in a child, Sandhill staff puts all their efforts into creating what they call a "relationship milieu." This notion is rooted in the modern concept of social connectedness as the moving force and the goal of human behavior. Any disruption of this process in the early stages of a child's development is traumatic and bears lasting negative consequences, which may disrupt normal socialization, education and overall functioning. Thus the relationship is the main change agent: damage caused within a relationship must be healed in a relationship. In keeping with that general principle, Sandhill's staff creates and utilizes a positive peer culture as modifying personal behavior factor.
Working with relatively young children in accordance with the NMT general framework, Sandhill has focused on restoration of basic physiological mind/body self-regulatory functions through specialized therapies, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, Neuro-feedback and Bio-feedback therapies, sensory integration approach using "squeeze machine" - a deep-pressure device designed to calm hypersensitive persons, and an Aquatic Therapy Salt Water pool to modulate vestibular, tactile, visual, and auditory processing of a child.
Regular physical exercise and recreation are critical for emotional regulation, and Sandhill residents participate in a wide variety of sports activities, such as horseback riding, swimming, hiking, gardening, yoga, and biking. School breaks provide residents with an opportunity to develop connections with nature through Wilderness Adventure Program trips. Substantial part of the therapeutic approach in Sandhill is attention to nutrition and use of organic and whole foods ("brain friendly" diet), as proper nutrition helps alleviate the symptoms of many mental health maladies.
Animal Assisted Interventions are the integral part of Sandhill's "relationship milieu". Sandhill has horses, dogs, cats, chickens, and tame peacocks. Working and playing with animals provides opportunities for spontaneous fun as well as personal growth. Children learn the importance of follow-through by performing chores and other daily responsibilities to help care for the animals. In turn, the animals provide children with a mirror to see how their actions, feelings and intentions impact others. There is no canine therapy per se at Sandhill, but the residents participate in a "rescue" program and take care of their assigned dogs. They volunteer at the local animal shelter and participate in adoption fairs. Twice monthly they participate in "Adopt Romero Road", wearing safety vests and gloves, and keep Romero Road in Los Lunas clean. Saving the animals and participating in community service-based activities designed to help make a difference for other people provides all-important joint meaningful staff-led group activities.
It is understood at Sandhill that some children may benefit from medication to assist them in their treatment. There is an experienced Board Certified Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist that works closely with the clinical team to determine appropriate medication interventions.

Education

All children at Sandhill attend an accredited private school located on the Sandhill campus. The education is provided to children according to their Individual Educational Program using individualized support and remedial strategies. The school program is coordinated with and embedded into the overall therapeutic NMT model. It offers a combination of multi-sensory and traditional classroom instruction, cutting-edge educational technologies, such as "A+ Learning System." Sandhill uses the general education K-12 curriculum, but each student works at his or her level and pace. Sandhill uses Terra Nova tests (nationally standardized norm-referenced measurements of academic achievement) to objectively evaluate academic progress. Students also participate in a variety of electives, specifically designed to fit with a child's treatment plan, such as organic gardening, clay work, arts and crafts, drawing, and music appreciation. Sandhill staff works with the original school districts and families in reaching goals established in IEP and, if requested, participates (through teleconference) in annual and triennial IEP meetings.

Family involvement

Family relationships of residents are often strained prior to placement at Sandhill, making relationship repair a crucial goal of the treatment program. Frequent family contacts by telephone and visits are encouraged and facilitated, supplemented with rigorous parental training sessions over the course of the entire treatment program. While visiting Sandhill Center, the parents are encouraged to spend time side-by-side with experienced staff members to watch and learn as they implement intervention strategies and activities.

            
Psychological issues of older internationally adopted children: courses and publications
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Last update on March 9, 2018