What You Need to Know: Developmental and Academic Crisis Planning- 2020 Trends & 2021 Predictions

What we saw in 2020: We saw in 2020 COVID-19’s impact on student’s emotional wellbeing and related academic success, simply put, falling into two buckets. For many, especially for those most vulnerable and already working to manage the challenges of learning differences and mental health challenges, required online learning and isolation exacerbated their struggles to the point of requiring a higher level of care and intervention. For others, COVID-19 has allowed them to stay home, in a safe environment, free from the daily social and academic stressors of school life that have been the cause of their distress. We continue to be grateful that so many schools give us a call when one of their students is struggling and grateful for our ongoing partnerships with mental health care providers and neuropsychologists. Thank you for your faith in us!

With regard to students needing a higher level of care, we saw a steep increase in demand for residential programming that has both been consistent over the course of the past year and has represented a wide range of presentations and needs. Many of our students who might not have needed wilderness therapy in healthier times, for example, benefited enormously from its healing features and social milieu. The more significant increase in our practice was among those needing the clinical sophistication of a wide range of types of residential programming to address more acute struggles with more serious mental health and substance abuse challenges. Within the substantial increase of demand of about 7% overall for what we call developmental and academic crisis planning services, we continued to see a fairly even representation of adolescents and young adults seeking creative therapeutic and academic planning to help them both weather the effects of COVID-19 and address their emotional distress.

Among our young adults needing therapeutic interventions of a residential type was a high level of need for simultaneous transfer planning as many of these young people had also experienced notable academic struggles in their current colleges and are seeking a fresh start as they transition from treatment. Our school-aged families have also needed more creative academic planning, including looking ahead to appropriate schooling environments following treatment, to help their children get back on track in their post-COVID, post-therapeutic program world. Many of our families came to us initially hoping a mid-year school or college change would be enough to help alleviate their child’s distress, but thankfully embraced the opportunity to take the time to derive the benefit of a more holistic and robust healing experience for their children in therapeutic programming.

Our Special Needs Team here at McMillan Education is incredibly impressed by and grateful to the private behavioral health and therapeutic programming world that has worked so hard to keep their doors open and provide these essential services throughout this public health crisis that has taken an enormous toll on children, adolescents, young adults and their families. The extra hours, creative planning skills, and indefatigable optimism and professionalism have not gone unnoticed by our team or our families. Imagining where these families would be had the industry not worked so hard to keep the lights on during this dark, dark year is truly unthinkable. So our deep thanks go out to the clinical teams we respect and love working with. We are grateful!

What lies ahead in 2021: Despite the fact that the industry has seemed to meet the challenge of COVID, we imagine that there will be shifts in programming and personnel brought on by some of the financial fall-out of COVID. We also recognize that mental health care providers have been on the front lines for over a year now and may be experiencing some level of burn-out that may require a well-deserved period of healing for them. So our desire is to get back on the road, as is our typical practice, to see our go-to programs as soon as COVID will allow so that we can reconnect in person with our valued clinical teams and program leaders. We also anticipate that the re-entry to a more normal life will mean that the second group of young people, those who found refuge from their mental health struggles in the isolation of COVID, will likely struggle and be faced with addressing their delayed treatment needs. Finally, students who have learning differences and have suffered lost academic time are likely to find the re-entry more demanding, perhaps leading to a need for more intensive and comprehensive therapeutic and educational planning services.

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