Shepherding Program

Shepherding Program


Although it is not uncommon for students to be anxious about school, many Collier students struggle with exceptionally high levels of anxiety that prevent them from actually attending. To help mitigate this school avoidance, Collier School created the Shepherding program to help ease students back to school. This service is overseen by Ashley Staggard, LAC, Certified Teacher of students with disabilities, and Outreach Counselor, with the collaboration of Collier High School counselors, teachers, and administration.

The Shepherding Program identifies students who have a history of school avoidance or those who have reached 15 absences. Ashley reaches out to these students and their families to arrange an initial home visit during which the student’s particular avoidance issues are assessed. A treatment plan is developed to help ease their anxiety through exposure therapy (brief visits to school), additional therapy sessions once they begin attending, and/or engagement in activities that peak their interest. Incentives are tailored to the student to increase their motivation to break out of their comfort zone, change their maladaptive behaviors and challenge the negative thoughts surrounding school. By teaching students skills to manage their anxiety, and incorporating a class/activity about which they are passionate, Shepherding provides the therapeutic support and motivation that student needs to get on the bus.

In addition to individualized treatment plans, students are invited to attend weekly anxiety groups that use Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Motivational Interviewing to provide continued support. We have also identified long breaks from school to be difficult for students with school avoidance. A Pre/Post Vacation Break group is offered twice a year during Winter and Spring break. Students who have attended both the pre and post groups have achieved a 100% success rate in attending school the first day after break. 

The Shepherding Program also provides support and involvement of parents or guardians. Using principles of Kazdin Parent Management Training, Collier provides parents with the tools they need to address their child’s oppositional behaviors. Ashley also runs a parent support group once a month to address the needs of parent’s attending. 

To date, the Shepherding Program has seen significant results with a success rate of 82%.