Our Therapeutic Program
EPIC students come to us with behaviors that manifest in myriad ways, including but not limited to physical aggression, environmental aggression, oppositional defiance, meltdowns, hyperfixation, compulsions, and struggles with executive functioning. While enrollment is not dependent on diagnosis, common diagnoses include oppositional defiant disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, specific learning disorders, borderline personality disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and clinical depression.
While students present with a wide range of behaviors and experiences, one thing they often have in common is a feeling that they have not been successful in previous educational settings. Because other programs fail to address the root causes of these behaviors, students often end up excluded from classroom activities, isolated from their peers, and struggling to keep up academically due to missed instructional time. As an embedded therapeutic school, we offer all students trauma-informed behavioral and emotional support as they engage in our inclusive, social, and academically rigorous program.
At any given time, walking through our campus, you may see an occupational therapist coaching a student through a frustrating writing assignment, an associate teacher reminding a student of their coping strategies during a group math lesson, a social worker helping students self-regulate during a competitive chess match, and a member of the operations staff pitching in to facilitate an obstacle course during a sensory break. With this level of embedded, individualized support, EPIC students end up thriving as members of a true school community.
Explicit Social-Emotional Learning
In addition to our rigorous academic program, EPIC’s curriculum includes explicit social-emotional instruction. In our weekly Social Skills course, classroom teachers lead hands-on on group lessons in topics such as appropriate attention seeking, polite requests, coping skills, frustration management, growth mindset, accepting differences, and building independence. Weekly Social Group sessions, led by Licensed Clinical Social Worker Kelly Holroyd, guide students through the process of identifying their feelings and recognizing how those feelings affect their behaviors and relationships. Students work with our team to develop individualized coping strategies and learn how and when to implement those strategies both at school and at home. Additionally, our team of Occupational Therapists lead weekly Group Sensory, in which students explore sensory tools and strategies they can independently apply throughout their days during moments of dysregulation.
Our Team of Experts
Each week, the entire EPIC staff comes together for case conferences, meetings dedicated to creating and revising behavior intervention plans for each student. Plans include assessments of lagging skills and unsolved problems as well as detailed, highly individualized strategies for mitigating these problems and helping each student achieve success. We also communicate all strategies and support systems to EPIC families in order to strengthen the home-school connection and ensure stability, consistency, and growth in all aspects of students’ lives.
Additionally, all members of the EPIC team, from custodial staff to administrators to services providers, receive frequent professional development in trauma-informed, therapeutic crisis de-escalation. EPIC is entirely unique in this regard—there is no team member unable to regulate escalated students while maintaining physical, psychological, and emotional safety for all involved. This fosters an environment rooted in trust, one in which students know they are valued and loved by every member of our community.
EPIC’s team includes a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, two Occupational Therapists, and a Speech Language Pathologist. We also work with a Physical Therapist who evaluates and provides services for students as needed. Our program is designed to meet every student’s goals in these areas through a combination of embedded classroom support and individual sessions. Related Service Providers and our educational team work together to develop plans for each student’s individual therapeutic needs and service delivery methods. At EPIC, we use related services to support students in their roles as students, prioritizing their academics and social development and fostering independence and growth.
Kelly Holroyd, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Kelly has years of expertise providing therapeutic services to youth in both clinical and educational settings. As an undergraduate studying psychology at Georgia State University, Kelly interned at Georgia State’s Clinic for Youth Anxiety and Related Disorders. Later, while earning her Masters in Social Work from Columbia University, Kelly interned at a public school in the Bronx, an alternative to incarceration program, and with new mothers at Lincoln Hospital. Before joining the EPIC team, Kelly worked with youth for several years as a Licensed Master Social Worker in community clinics throughout the Bronx, first working with adults. Kelly collaborates with our team to continue to innovate the trauma-informed approach to therapeutic education that EPIC is known for. She also supports the unique needs of our students, families, and staff. In her free time, Kelly enjoys doing yoga, painting, reading, and parenting her cat, Mr. Darcy.
Gail Stephens, Occupational Therapist
Gail is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association and has worked as an Occupational Therapist in multiple elementary and early childhood settings. She believes a student’s environment shapes their participation, behavior, and emotions and shares EPIC’s mission of celebrating children for their differences. She loves being part of a team that takes a multi-sensory approach to learning and collaborates to best support the needs of every child. Gail is a New York State Registered Licensed Occupational Therapist who earned a BS in Education and Social Policy from Northwestern University and a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Columbia University. She is a Brooklyn native who loves riding her bike, practicing yoga, and singing karaoke in the shower.
Donna Kim, Occupational Therapist
Donna is a NYS registered licensed Occupational Therapist. As an OT, she is dedicated to collaborating with students and their families to maximize participation in their valued occupations and to succeed in their pursuits! Prior to joining EPIC, she pursued work experience and learning opportunities in relevant pediatric settings including school-based practice, outpatient sensory integration clinics, and specialized summer camps. Donna received her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Columbia University and her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and French from Amherst College.
Michelle Lubetzki, Speech Language Pathologist
As a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist, Michelle has a variety of clinical experiences helping children, adolescents, and young adults. Michelle received her undergraduate degree at the University of Delaware in cognitive science with a concentration in speech-language pathology, and her graduate degree is in speech and language pathology from Hunter College. She is level one PROMPT-trained. Additionally, Michelle is completing her final year in New York Law School’s part-time evening program to obtain her Juris Doctor degree. She intends to participate in the field of special education law alongside her work as a speech-language pathologist.
Her professional experiences include working at a preschool for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, working at a variety of sensory gyms in Manhattan with children ages 2-9, leading social groups to facilitate pragmatic language skill development, and providing home and clinic-based early intervention sessions. For the past two years, Michelle has worked with several young adults diagnosed with Autism in a clinical setting providing transitional services, with a focus on job-related skills, and language skills within activities of daily living to foster these students ability to participate in society independently.
Yael Avnon, Physical Therapist
Yael Avnon is a board certified pediatric clinical specialist. She has trained in orthopedic and lower extremity management, Neuro Developmental Treatment training and aquatic therapy, as well as pediatric pelvic floor dysfunction and treatment. She started working at NYU on the pediatric floor and PICU, Rusk rehabilitation inpatient hospital and at NYU outpatient pediatric clinic ten years ago. After four years, she moved to private practice, as well as doing home and school based work. These diverse settings have given her extensive training in a broad spectrum of diagnoses, from developmental delays to complex genetic disorders and brain injuries. In addition to general PT, Yael specialize in Aquatic Therapy, which is a fun and effective way to treat kids with sensory and mobility limitations. She also specializes in pelvic floor work, which is designed to treat bowel and bladder related issues (potty training, lack of awareness, bedwetting, constipation etc).
In her experience, the best results come from children who are in a warm and trusting environment. She believes in creating sustainable programs for each child, in which they feel comfortable and respected. She collaborates openly with families and other clinicians to provide cohesive care.