From Troubled to Terrific: How Therapeutic Boarding Schools Change Futures

No longer just for elite students, boarding schools are now available to children with special needs.

Boarding schools often get a bad rap in our culture. From “The Sound of Music” to “The Parent Trap,” we’ve watch children in movies escape the clutches of evil stepparents who want to send them away to boarding school. But the truth is, boarding schools have a long and distinguished place in our history.

Designed to prepare bright young people for success and leadership, boarding schools place as much emphasis on positive contributions to the community as on academic excellence. Alumni of these prestigious institutions begin their careers with an impressive network already in place. Not only have the members of this network taken classes together; but they’ve also lived, eaten, and played together all through their academic years.

Traditional boarding schools often succeed in turning out well-educated, motivated graduates who are prepared to succeed in the world. However, in some cases, this may be because they usually admit academically prepared, highly motivated students who are set up to succeed in the first place. In other words, traditional boarding schools cater to the families of children who already possess a strong inner core of self-esteem, sense of purpose, and hope for their future.

In the past, it has been hard for the parents of troubled children to find high-caliber academic schools that also met the need for emotional growth. Children who were bright, but who also struggled with ADD, addiction, depression, or learning disabilities too often failed to reach their academic potential. Today, the parents of these students can find a variety of specialized boarding schools – often called therapeutic boarding schools or residential treatment schools – that answer their needs.

While it would be highly unusual for a traditional boarding school to accept an openly defiant teenager, for example, certain therapeutic boarding schools are particularly equipped to help just such a child. While academics play a major role in the curriculum of residential treatment schools, children also receive social, emotional, physical, and spiritual guidance to a degree unheard of in traditional schools.

While academic expectations are high, there is intensive support and encouragement to assist students to meet those expectations. Because therapeutic boarding schools seek to change a child’s self-image from “troubled” to “terrific,” group and individual therapy is as much a part of life as math or English class. This combination of academics and therapy sets the groundwork for success at the college level and beyond.

Not all therapeutic boarding schools are alike. Some are designed for under-motivated children, some for learning disabled. Still others exist to meet the specific needs of children struggling with obesity and low self-esteem. If you’re considering a therapeutic boarding school for your child, you’ll want to speak with an educational consultant who can help identify the school that best meets your child’s needs.

There are some similarities among therapeutic boarding schools. All receive new students year-round. All perform psychological tests and in-depth interviews to plan a curriculum specifically for each child. Most importantly, perhaps, all work to replace negative behavior and self-perceptions with integrity and hope.