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Línea de Ayuda en Espanol: 774-502-0952

Emotional Disabilities

Structured Therapeutic Education Program (STEP)

Jessica Adamowicz
[email protected]

Jessica McCauley
[email protected]


This educational program is designed to meet the academic needs of students, and improve upon Social Emotional Learning, which is defined as the process of developing students’ and adults’ social and emotional competencies- the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors that individuals need to make successful choices” (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)).  The five core Social Emotional Learning competencies addressed in this program are self-regulation, social awareness, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and self-awareness. Students are instructed on how to accurately identify and regulate their own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.  They also learn therapeutic strategies to take on the perspective of others, establish and maintain healthy relationships, and make positive and appropriate choices involving their social interactions and personal behavior.

Consideration for STEP Programs:

The Structured Therapeutic Education Programs (STEP) are designed for students in grades kindergarten through twelve, who are identified through the Special Education Team process as having an Emotional Disability (as defined by IDEA federal guideline 34 CFR 300.7). Students with an Emotional Disability may demonstrate one or more of the following characteristics that adversely affect educational performance:

  • an inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers
  • inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances
  • a general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression
  • a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems

If you suspect that your child needs a STEP program ask your child’s teacher, school administrator or behavior specialist about how to initiate the screening process.


Teacher of Moderate Disability - provide high quality instructional experience to students with moderate disabilities through creativity, resourcefulness and sound judgment consistent with the curriculum frameworks, standards and the rules and regulations of the Worcester Public Schools.

Behavior specialists - provide both direct and indirect services to students in the STEP Programs. Indirect services include consultation with instructional staff regarding classroom wide interventions to ensure a safe and structured classroom. Direct services include individual pull-out counseling services, and implementation of intervention groups (e.g., social skills, anger management, executive functioning, mindfulness, etc.) based on each student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).  Behavior specialists also develop student behavior intervention plans, which are informed by assessments and the collection of data to evaluate and progress monitor students’ performance.  In an effort to ensure access to community resources and services, students and their families are supported through clinical case management by the behavior specialist.  Behavior Specialists are Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC) or Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW)

Instructional Assistant - support the instruction of all students by reinforcing lessons with individual students and small groups of students and providing behavioral support based on ABA methodology.  Tasks and duties are assigned and directed by the classroom teacher, behavior specialist and other professional staff.