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School Engagement Program for the School Avoidant Student

School Engagement Program Overview

Cedarhurst offers a School Engagement Program for students who are school avoidant, refuse to attend, or who for any reason have been away from school for a period of time and require a gradual re-entry. Students begin the engagement process by attending Cedarhurst four days per week for short blocks of time in the late afternoon when few students are on the premises. Students in the program work with teachers in small groups of no more than four students. Instruction is highly individualized. A strong academic program is accompanied by a thorough assessment of the specific factors that contribute to school non-attendance. Appropriate interventions are then identified and implemented to support school attendance. The amount of time spent at Cedarhurst is gradually increased with the goal of full engagement in the standard Cedarhurst program and eventual return to the referring school district.


Eligible students are those who have had school avoidance or non-attendance over a period of time with the school avoidance being a consistent problem, and who have not responded to conventional interventions. Students who have exhibited less severe forms of school avoidance may be candidates for the regular Cedarhurst School program.


The program is staffed by certified special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and licensed clinical social workers. Behavioral staff are available to provide consultation around behavioral management and intervention.

Shortened School Day

The program hours are 3:00 to 5:30 pm, Monday through Thursday. During this time, students will attend classes and meet with their social worker. Parents will often have a weekly meeting with social workers during this time. The shorter school day, with hours in the afternoon, assists students who have reversed sleep/wake cycles to transition back to school. The schedule also offers students the opportunity to develop a familiarity with the classes, the teachers and the physical environment of the school without the added pressures of full hallways and classrooms.


As students begin their academic work, a detailed assessment of the school avoidant behavior is conducted. Students are assigned a social worker, with whom they meet regularly. The social worker conducts the assessment, drawing on previous evaluations, using input from other service providers, families, and previous educational settings, and administering a school refusal assessment scale. Parents and caregivers are integral and valued members of the team. As such they have regular meetings with the social worker during which they receive education, support and interventions related to school avoidant behavior.

Supportive Interventions

Once the assessment is complete, results are shared with the student and family and specific strategies for improving school attendance are developed and implemented. Strategies are based on the underlying functions of the school avoidant behavior, which is revealed in the assessment.

Referral Process

Referrals are made directly by the school district (LEA). A referral consists of recent IEPs, a transcript, psychoeducational evaluations and any other relevant clinical information that is available. Upon receipt of the referral, a Cedarhurst social worker contacts the family to arrange a visit and intake interview. Once complete, a decision is made within one school day as to whether the student is accepted into the School Engagement Program. A placement PPT is required before the student can begin in the program.

For more information or to make a referral please contact Kitty Clemens, Director (203-764-9335,