Great Opportunity or Curse?? Self-Contained Class


New Member
I got a call yesterday from my son's principal telling me that my son had the opportunity of being placed in the district's first Behavior Disorder program. It is a self contained classroom with 7 children in 1st-3rd grades.It will be held at a regular school in our district, he will go to lunch and recess with the "normal" kids. There is 1 teacher and 2 para-professionals. The principal is selling this like it is the best thing ever but I am skeptical.

My son has adhd/odd, depression and anxiety. He is fairly recently diagnosed (his behavior is not quite stable, yet). I do concurr with the school that he has had a very bad year. He is being retained to do 1st grade again. I am worried that my son will not get the opportunity to be around peers that are typical kids, that he is being kept away from the other kids, that he isn't going to be mainstreamed. He is such a "monkey see-monkey do" type kid, I'm afraid he will be more anti-social, defiant if around more kids just like or worse than him.

On the other hand, an almost 1:2 ratio of adult to child will be a blessing, as will a much smaller classroom where the girl twirling her hair 3 rows away won't bother him while he was already bothered by 22 other kids doing their thing.

Your thoughts?
in my humble opinion, it sounds like more of a blessing than a curse. Considering his age and the fact that he is being held back, I think he will benefit greatly from having such a small amount of kids in the classroom with him. He will have a chance during lunch and recess to mainstream with his peers, and perhaps it should be a priority for him to have play dates with kids his own age.

If he gets this type of help now, he very well might be mainstreamed when he gets older.

Good luck with your decision.


I agree that the level of problems associated with his diagnosis's and being retained strongly suggest that your child needs intensive intervention. The adult to child ratio is similar to therapeutic day schools.

I would ask the principal what other opportunities for inclusion (mainstreaming) there might be as the year goes on. There will be field trips, assemblies, and if P.E. is still offered in your SD, that would be a possibility.

If this were my child I would try it for the following reason:

When the parents of the older children on this board were surveyed about what they would do differently if they could do it all again (perish the thought), many said "intervene with the school sooner," or "get more support at school sooner." Not one person said, "I wish I had prevented my child from receiving special education services."

Another important piece of information: There is a change in the 2004 law: if you consent to this placement, you can withdraw consent later if you want to. However, if you remove your child from special education entirely, he will be subject to regular discipline, including suspension and expulsion.



New Member
After the advice here, speaking to my counselor (she is a mom of a child with bi-polar disorder that happens to go to the same school where the new program will be housed) And my difficult child's psychologist, I decided to sign the forms to change my son's placement. He will be attending the new program. I do still have my reservations but I think they stem more from my own denial that my son has a problem OR rather wishing it weren't so. I don't want him to be the weird little boy in the special class. (No offense intended!) But it is what it is and I have to work with the reality at hand.

My counselor very excitedly urged me to put my son in the program and quickly! She was also going to call the school right after our appointment and see about getting her difficult child in the running for the new school.

I think part of my son's school moving so quickly now to get him intensive help stems from their "covering their tracks" or feeling guilty OR hoping not to get their pants sued off for completely failing my son earlier.

Within the first 2 weeks of kindergarten, (a full year and 8 months ago!) I asked to have my son assessed and the party line was "we really don't do that until 2nd grade". That was before the big behavior shift but I had already had my concerns about adhd issues. AFTER my son's hospitalization and our baptism by fire, I've discovered that my son has rights and he should have been evaluated then. I didn't know I needed to send a certified letter asking for his evaluation. I just verbally asked his teacher and mentioned it to the principal. Oh well, whatever the reason, he is getting the help now.


New Member
my 6 yr son will be starting in a similar program in the fall. it was a hard decision for us also as he is a twin, be on a schedule 1 hr off from his sister's and have an hour long bus ride.

i got to visit the class for the older kids and had the head of the program spend 2 hrs giving me the tour and answering my ?'s. it is a very structured program and while i don't like the fact there is a time out room in the classroom i think it is just what my son needs to succeed.

the one bonus i see is that they teach to the students ability as well as social skills intergreted into the schooling. this way my high iq kid will probably be ahead of his peers in many areas. that is after they get all the kids used to this new enviroment.

i was also encouraged that the have had success in having some of the kids placed back into general ed.

i think you and i should keep in touch in the fall and compare notes!


New Member
We're facing a very similar situation. My son also just completed 1st grade, and we've agreed--with serious reservations--to try him in a self-contained behavioral classroom in the fall. I have all the same concerns about bad role models that you do. (And in fact, our situation is in some ways worse. Because my son is academically pretty advanced, they are trying him in a class form third-to-fifth graders, even though he will only be in second grade. Talk about potentially bad role models!!! And all the kids in his class are boys!)

But I am going to keep a really close eye on the situation, and yank him out of there if it looks like things aren't going well.


New Member
My son was in the very same classroom you're speaking of. He's 8 with-ODD. I say was because he's now in a psychiatric day-treatment program.

My son was in two classrooms like this, but one was through the state's head start program, the other through the SD. The head start one was an absolute failure. They did NOT have qualified teachers and the 'helpers' were not qualified to do day-care, let alone deal with emotionally disturbed children.

The SD class was wonderful. My son made wonderful friends, had great relationships with his teachers, and enjoyed friendships in the mainstream classroom, as well. My son is intellectually advanced for his age and the classroom did an excellent job at keeping him challenged without overwhelming him.

The time-out rooms were optional for my son's class. They were there if the kiddos needed a break and didn't want to have a meltdown in front of the other kids.

Mainstream classroom time was very important. The kids were monitored daily with a behavioral score sheet and those scores were recorded and reviewed regularly. As the kids progressed, their mainstream time was adjusted accordingly.

I would much rather have my son in the BLC (Behavioral Learning Center) than a mainstream classroom when they are adjusting to their social/emotional disorders. It is very hard on their self-esteems to feel that magnitude of failure in the mainstream classroom. These BLC classrooms are designed to be forgiving and understanding, where mainstream just doesn't have the time or people to do that.

I would definately ask for the credentials of the teachers. You want qualified people in there. Not someone with-tons of babysitting or teaching. Someone who has gone to school (MA degree) with emphasis on Special Education; social/emotional disorders. Otherwise you're just looking at babysitters with teaching degrees.

My biggest problem with the SD was the lack of wrap-around. We needed help at home to incorporate the learning/discipline/consequence structure. I had asked repeatedly, but they were not prepared for that kind of service. The PDTC (psychiatric day treatment center) my son is in now DOES do that, but emphasizes emotional therapy, not behavior correction (as the SD does).

So if your little one needs more therapeutic help, you may need additional counseling to go along with the BLC. It is a good idea for the teacher (case manager teacher), the parents, and the family/child therapist to be in constant communication and working collaboratively on the IEP.


New Member
I am mostly a lurker on here but I read your post and felt that I must respond.

Just before the second term of grade 2 started for my son it was strongly
suggested that we place him in the same kind of class that you are talking about
(BIC=Behavior Improvement Class).

Now this was a kid who had been suspended several times before the age of 8
years old. He had some serious emotional and behaviour issues and me and HB were
at our wits end so we decided that this HAD to be our next step. I wasn't
anti-medications but I truly wanted to try and make things better with strict behaviour

Let me tell you, the first time we went to observe this heart broke.
They had such a different way of treating kids in this class that I had never
seen before. They even had a "Time Out Room" which consisted of a room not much
bigger than a closet with a door with a tiny window and a lock on the outside of
the door. I thought to myself, what am I doing? How can I do this to my baby? He
doesn't deserve to be "treated" like this. Locked up in some cage if he has an
out-burst...not my kid. However, my husband and I were both on the verge of
losing our jobs because of the amount of time we had to take off because of our
son's previous actions. We had no we took the last remaining spot in
the class of 10 kids and 3 teachers.

We have never ever looked back. It was one of the best decisions we could have
ever made. Not for us but for our son. The distance that our son has come in the
past three and a half years is amazing. He is still in the BIC class and will
return there this fall for grade 5. However, he will be getting integrated into
the mainstream classes right off the bat. We will go slowly as to not overwhelm
him but it looks like he will be fully integrated back into the mainstream by
grade 6.

I hope you seriously consider this and know that it would be the best option for
your child. I know how hard it is to say that "I have a special needs child."
Especially when there is nothing physical to show it. I know how people judge
you because your child doesn't look special needs. But all that matters is that in your heart you feel like you are doing what is best for him!

I also wanted to add about the influence of the other students on your child. My son had a few of these incidents from both angles he was a follower at times as well as an instigator however, over the years he has learned how to always be a leader and not react to other kids behaviors. So if you have a couple incidents of negative influence don't let that necessarily be the deciding factor in pulling your child out.

One thing we have learned from parenting a child with special needs is that for the most part it seems to be 2 steps forward and 1 step back but having that extra one step forward is so rewarding for us as parents and for our son!

Take care of yourself!



Active Member
We are reluctantly agreeing with the school to have our difficult child start out 6th grade in a self-contained classroom. He's made it through in mainstream classes up until this point, although with a number of suspensions and soooo many times we had to go pick him up from school.

In our case it was the switch to middle school and all those transitions that helped us make our decision. We just don't think difficult child will be able to handle it without a one-on-one aide which the school says he doesn't qualify for.

I think the intent of most of these self-contained classrooms is to work on mainstreaming. My difficult child will start out in mainstream band class, and will slowly be moved into the other classes. I like this idea, although my difficult child does mimic as well so I'm hoping the other kids in his class don't have that much of a negative effect on him. He's had so much trouble in his regular class with the other kids this past year, that I don't think it can be much worse.

Mrs Smith

New Member
I like the self-contained learning support classes in my district. They're not perfect but there are a lot of advantages for my son - small group setting, better teacher/student ratio, integrated therapies (Occupational Therapist (OT)/speech/social skills), better communication between school and home, more and better accomodations, multisensory teaching, behavioral support, peers with similar issues, protection from bullying, modified disciplinary measures, etc.

If you can, go visit to get a better feel of the program and the kids involved. Our district continues this kind of programming thru the middle and high school years too.

The proof is in the kid. Mine still loves to learn, has made friends and willingly goes to school everyday.


New Member
reading all of these responses has made me feel a lot better. i knew we were doing the right thing but when you are stepping into the unknow sometimes it helps to hear from those who have been there! thanks so much!


New Member

I wrote earlier in this thread that I had serious reservations about starting my son in a self-contained classroom this fall. So far, though, it has been really excellent for him. We had focused on keeping him mainstreamed as much as possible through 1st grade, but unfortunately, that meant part mainstream and part of his time spent in a resource-room type of setting which was designed for kids that were behind academically. His problem has never been academics--it is more with behavior and impulse control. Where he is now, he is the youngest kid, and has the opportunity to work at higher grade levels on academics, which seems to keep him interested and lessen him acting out from boredom. More behavioral supports in the classroom as well. And he is mainstreamed for science, music and PE. Plus, for the first time since he was in preschool, a teacher who likes him and wants him there! I think the last is the biggest plus. Crossing fingers that all continues to go well...


New Member
I just wanted to write in and say that it's really helpful to read this. My son is too young for most of these programs locally, but this is definitely the direction the SD is heading, and it's a big relief to know that others with similar apprehensions have had positive experiences.