iStock_000021021424_FullCPHC Affiliate Service Site: Walnut Lake Preschool — West Bloomfield, MI

The Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute trained eight more RNT therapists in 2014 at Walnut Lake Preschool, under the leadership Nancy Bleiden, PhD, clinical director. This affiliated service site has been treating special needs preschoolers with Reflective Network Therapy and has been reporting strong clinical gains, including IQ gains.

Education director and head teacher in the RNT classroom, Cathy Rozenberg, is now expert in the psychoeducational synergy at the heart of the RNT method. This therapeutic preschool was created in 2009 by the Center for Early Childhood Development, an outreach program of the Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute. Dr. Bleiden is a faculty member.

Preschool Helps Kids with special needs
by Rob Weaver, 10/18/10

As 4-year-old Anthony leaves his mother to enter his classroom each week, he’s greeted by smiling teachers and staff that help him develop socially, emotionally and mentally in a special needs preschool in West Bloomfield Township. Carrie Doelle enrolled her son Anthony in Walnut Lake Preschool after deciding he needed more individual attention. She beamed, describing her brown-haired son as very sweet, smart and active.

“He has a genetic disorder that causes developmental delays—late speaking, late walking—and we found he needed more attention and more one-on-one than a typical classroom.”

The Walnut Lake Preschool offers specialized individual curriculum to children struggling with emotional, behavioral and developmental challenges. It was created by the Center for Early Childhood Development, part of an outreach program of the Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute, to improve the emotional and social lives of preschool-age children. The directors of the school are Nancy Blieden, PhD, and Dr. Don Spivak, both faculty members at the Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute. The preschool was started in 2009 with a $200,000 donation from a parent, Blieden said. The preschool rents a classroom in The Corners, a West Bloomfield campus that houses nonprofit organizations.

“As clinicians, we hear about kids that don’t fit usual patterns and they’re treated as bad or wrong and we saw a need because of our clinical experiences. These kids don’t fit the need for special education, but don’t fit into a regular nursery school either. Kids range in their needs. Some are autistic, some kids are in different emotional states, some have developmental issues,” Spivak said.

“Part of our mission is to work with public and private schools to reintegrate and share knowledge and experiences with the kids, and to work with parents. It’s not just a program for kids that are off-the-wall it’s for kids that would benefit from a smaller classroom. We have kids who are here for different reasons — some who are in foster care, some kids who have problems with overstimulation and need a smaller classroom.”

The preschoolers are taught by lead teacher Cathy Rozenberg and assistant teacher Melissa Scheys. Rozenberg said she teaches five kids, but the maximum they can take is seven.

“One thing that’s different about our program is that we have kids from different paths,” Rozenberg said. “We develop an emergent curriculum and it changes and grows as kids come and grow in school.” She said a program is specialized and developed for each family to meet the individual child’s needs. “We still do languages, science, social science, movement…none of the typical preschool curriculum is lost because we’re focusing on social and emotional issues. And within that, we try to create a warm and nurturing environment that focuses on helping kids.”

Each child who comes to the school gets a family consultant and child therapist. Marcy Broder is one of the family consultants and works with Anthony. She said she observes a child each week and attends staff meetings.

“If some areas are developing slower than others, we help parents develop similar approaches to what is in the school…I’m a bridge between the school and the family.” Doelle said her son has benefited from the social component of the preschool, and that he’s learning how to interact and make friends. “They really mean special needs,” Doelle said. “Anthony’s so special; he just needs some extra help, but who doesn’t?”