More than forty years ago Nancy Anderson, a psychologist with the Montgomery County schools, envisioned an inclusive public education setting for all children, including those with emotional and behavioral needs. “As a psychologist before, going around testing kids and working with them in the schools I found out that a lot of the teachers said that the mental health professionals in the clinics or privately didn’t know what they were doing, didn’t know enough about the kids, and didn’t know what the teachers had to face in terms of dealing with them in groups in schools,” said Mrs. Anderson. “And so, as a result of that, I decided to move the mental health professionals into the school so that the teachers could see what the mental health professional was trying to do and the mental health professional could see what the teacher had to face and deal with in groups.”
From this idea, the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit (MCIU) launched the Learning and Adjustment Program in 1964. In 1968, mental health services and social workers were brought into 7 schools for the first time. Ten years later, 108 classes had these services assisting more than 1,100 students.
One of the most innovative aspects of the MCIU program was placing the therapy program as an affective component right within the classroom, including a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist and social work team who could go into the classroom and run a group therapy session with a teacher and teacher’s aide as a co-therapist on a weekly basis. That enabled the teachers and teachers aides to continue to run therapeutic discussion groups the rest of the week.
Mrs. Anderson considered having qualified staff to be the single most important area of administrative concern. Her philosophy was to train teachers to become therapeutic agents within the classroom, supplemented by the expertise and dedication of professional mental health staff who have chosen to work with this population of students. Their mentoring of students, the academic rigor and the opportunity to learn social skills helped students to achieve their personal goals for employment or future education.
To this day the concept of students achieving internal controls is a cornerstone of the Anderson Behavior Support System. Students have a daily schedule designed to provide constant supervision in an environment which promotes student accountability and responsibility to succeed at their goals.