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Learning Through Relationships

About

Special Education School in New York City

Building meaningful, respectful relationships is the foundation for learning. With collaboration between school, home, and the community, the learning goes beyond the classroom. Our goal is to move a student up the developmental ladder to become thinking, relating communicating members of their community.

The Rebecca School experience is one of respect, acceptance, and challenge. Using an interdisciplinary approach, a student’s core deficits of relating and communicating are addressed continuously throughout the day.

Whether in an individual, dyad or small group activity the focus of the staff is to support the students’ difficulties and challenge their strengths. To move them up the developmental ladder, our team works to help the student integrate all areas of development.

Rebecca School was created to address the needs of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders who were underserved in New York.  Tina McCourt was chosen as Program Director, having had extensive experience with DIR®/Floortime™, attending trainings since 1994. She had a strong belief that a relationship-based approach was the best way to serve and help children diagnosed on the spectrum relate and communicate.  The program at Rebecca School would fully integrate the DIR® model.

In April 2005, Dr. Stanley Greenspan, the founder of DIR®/Floortime™, signed on as a consultant to the school. The building was found at the end of 2005 and construction started in February 2006. This resulted in a state of the art facility that includes large sensory gyms, multiple art and music rooms, large sunny classrooms with smart boards and amplification systems and a rooftop playground.

In the spring of 2006, Tina began to interview and hire staff, perform assessments and place children in classrooms. The school opened in September 2006 with 48 students and 53 staff members. Since then the student population has more than doubled and continues to grow each year.

Rebecca School is located at 40 East 30th Street in New York City.

Our 45,000 square foot facility encompasses 6 floors and 18 classrooms. Each floor has the classrooms situated around the perimeter of the building with therapist’s offices and Quiet Rooms in the center of the floor. The school has an art studio, a library and three music studios. The school contains a large gym with a rock climbing wall, two sensory gyms, and a rooftop playground. Thoughtful consideration of sensory and environmental experience was used in designing and choosing colors and fixtures.

Our exceptional teachers all have, or are pursuing, Masters Degrees in Special Education. All assistants have their Bachelors Degrees and many are pursuing their Masters Degree. On staff are Occupational Therapists, Speech/Language Pathologists, Physical Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers, Music Therapists, a full-time Nurse, and an Adaptive Physical Education Teacher. All therapists are certified in their field. Weekly staff development and team meetings enable our staff to work more effectively as a team to provide a comprehensive program to each student.

Meet Our Staff

Tina McCourt, LCSW, M.S. Ed, SAS, SDA
Director

 

Tina received her Master’s in Social Work from Wurzweiler School of Social Work and her Master’s in Education from Baruch College. Prior to coming to the Rebecca School, Tina was the Program Director at the Early Intervention Center of Brooklyn. She first began attending DIR® trainings in 1994 and has continued to participate in annual ICDL conference almost every year. She received intense ongoing training from Dr. Greenspan from September 2005 – March 2010. Tina is also a board member of ICDL.

Kristin Srp, M.S.
Assistant Director

Kristin received her Master’s Degree from Hunter College in Speech/Language Pathology. She was the Educational Director of an Early intervention Center that serviced children with autism-spectrum disorders and other developmental delays before transitioning to the Rebecca School in September 2008. She has worked with children with autism -spectrum disorders for over eight years. This work includes treating children of various ages and abilities in home-based settings, school age settings and Early Intervention centers.  She is certified as an Advanced DIR®/Floortime™ provider through ICDL.  She has been attending DIR® training and conferences hosted by ICDL since November 2003.

Toni Tortora, MS OTR/L
Clinical Director

Toni received her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from SUNY, Downstate Medical Center and her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She has worked at the Rebecca School since 2008 and has extensive training in DIR Floortime™. She is currently a DIR® Certificate Candidate, a CPI certified instructor and has taken many sensory integration courses. Toni currently lectures at graduate level programs about DIR® and occupational therapy, and how to understand child’s individual differences, the “I” in DIR ®.

Supervisors

Rachel Leeper, M.A.
Educational Supervisor

Rachel has been with the Rebecca School since 2006. She received her Master’s Degree from Columbia Teachers College in Special Education.  She has a background working in schools and developmental settings including students ranging in age from birth to adolescence.  Prior to the Rebecca School, she was working as an Early Intervention Specialist using Floortime™ model in Massachusetts.  She is certified as an Advanced DIR®/Floortime™ provider through ICDL.  Rachel feels when she first began reading Greenspan’s work she felt that she had finally found the theoretical framework that feels instinctually right about working and playing with children.

Lillian Rodriguez
Educational Supervisor

Lillian has been with the Rebecca School since 2007.  She received her dual Master’s degree from Hunter College in General and Special Education.  Lillian is certified as a Proficient DIR/ Floortime® provider through ICDL.  Prior to coming to the Rebecca School, Lillian worked in an Early Childhood setting where she helped foster learning through play which aligns with the DIR/ Floortime® model.  Lillian feels fortunate to be working under a theoretical framework that values students’ strengths and promotes creativity within project-based learning.

Julia Feltus
Educational Supervisor

Julia has been with the Rebecca School since 2012. She received her dual master’s degree in Childhood Education and Childhood Special Education from Hunter College. Julia is certified as a Proficient DIR®/Floortime™ provider through the ICDL. She is passionate about yoga and mindfulness and has completed a 30-hour children’s yoga teacher training program through Karma Kids Yoga©.

Ismini Georgiades, Ph.D
Clinical Coordinator

Ismini received her doctorate in Counseling Psychology from Fordham University. Prior to coming to Rebecca School she worked with a broad range of child, adolescent, and young adult populations in medical, community, psychiatric and university settings. She has experience providing individual and group psychotherapy, clinical supervision and didactic training for psychologists. She has been an adjunct professor for the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University and has co-authored book chapters in the areas of health psychology, grief and loss, and interpersonal relationships.

Ashley Lyons, MA, CCC-SLP, TSSLD
Speech and Language Supervisor

Ashley received Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology from The George Washington University and her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from James Madison University.  Prior to working at Rebecca School, she worked in a special education preschool for students 3-5 years old, a residential facility for adults with developmental disabilities, and she currently provides early intervention services to children birth to 3 years of age. Ashley is certified in DIR®/Floortime™, trained in PROMPT, and has attended a number of conferences related to oral motor and feeding therapy.

Meghan Collins, MPT
Physical Therapy Supervisor

Meghan has been with the Rebecca School since 2007. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from the University of Scranton. Along with her extensive training in DIR®, Meghan is trained as a CPI Certified Instructor. She has also attended trainings with The Components of Movement and Principles of Neurodevelopmental Treatment with Lois Bly, Yoga for the Special Child: A therapeutic approach for infants and children with Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and Learning Disabilities with Sonia Sumar, and Therapeutic Listening with Sheila Frick.

Lynne Kalvin, LMSW
Social Work Supervisor

Lynne received her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Adelphi University, Garden City, NY. Her post graduate training is in Family Therapy where she attended the  Family Institute of Westchester in Harrison, NY. Prior to the Rebecca School, Lynne worked for twelve years in an early intervention preschool program with children and families with special needs in White Plains, NY. She also has an private practice in Irvington, NY.

Stacey Hensel MA, MT-BC, LCAT, NRMT
Music Therapy Department Coordinator

Stacey is a Licensed and Board-Certified music therapist. She has extensive experience as a clinician working with a wide range of ages, developmental levels and social-emotional challenges. She received her BA in Music Therapy at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas and graduated from New York University’s Master’s degree program in Music Therapy. Following this she completed her post-graduate advanced clinical training at The Nordoff-Robbins Center at NYU. Stacey is currently pursing advanced certification in Vocal Psychotherapy at the Music Psychotherapy Center in NYC. Stacey had an instrumental role in developing the music therapy department and clinical training program at SDTC-The Center for Discovery in Harris, New York. Here she gained broad experiences as a clinician, instructor and supervisor in a music-centered music therapy model. In addition to providing music therapy services Stacey coordinates Rebecca School’s music therapy internship program and provides supervision for staff music therapists. She has also taught parent trainings on using music and elements of music in Floortime™ session, for engagement and supporting emotional development. Stacey has presented at numerous regional and national Music Therapy conferences as well as internationally at the European Music Therapy Conference. Her presentations have included case studies on Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy, DIR ® and Creative Music Therapy, Music Therapy as a mental health service in a school setting and using music to engage for parents and caregivers. In addition she has provided experiential workshops, and taught continuing education courses on clinical improvisation and using music in supervision.

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