New Program Offers Hope to Children with Severe Disabilities

December 4, 2000 -- Belmont, MA --  The Kennedy Hope Academy, a new program operated in collaboration with McLean Hospital and Franciscan Children’s Hospital, is offering new hope for families of children diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorders, such as autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and/or mental retardation, who also suffer from major psychiatric illnesses or behavioral problems.

The Academy, located at the Brighton campus of Franciscan Children’s Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, is part of the McLean-Franciscan Child and Adolescent Mental Health Programs. It is an 11-bed residential school providing intensive treatment to children ages five through 18. The program benefits from Franciscan’s longstanding commitment of caring for developmentally disabled and mentally handicapped children and from McLean’s psychiatric expertise in this same area. The program also draws upon the hospitals’ experience of running other related school programs.

Program director David Rourke said the children who attend the Academy may typically stay for one year, while they learn to control their aggression, agitation and other self-harming behavior through applied behavior analysis, state-of-the-art psychopharmacology, individual and group therapy, occupational therapy with sensory motor integration and speech/language therapy. Both physical and psychiatric care are available 24 hours a day.

"We are not a short-term unit," explained Rourke. "We make an effort to change the way these children interact with the world and give them an opportunity to integrate back in to the community by developing substantial new social and academic skills."

In addition to therapy, the children attend classes six hours a day, where each child has a highly individualized curriculum tailored to meet his/or her needs. An experienced special education teacher heads up each classroom with help from teacher’s assistants.

This program complements a new short-term, inpatient hospital program for children with similar diagnoses, which McLean-Franciscan opened earlier this fall.