What is Learning and Behavior Support at Olivia’s Place?

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by Jamie Fanelli, Learning and Behavior Support Lead

by Jamie Fanelli, Learning and Behavior Support Lead

At Olivia’s Place in Shanghai, the Learning and Behavior Support team has been growing and evolving since we opened our doors. Today, we have a team of four learning specialists and behavior analysts to meet a wide variety of needs.

Most of the children the Learning and Behavior Support team serve receive learning support through Olivia’s Place in addition to the academic/behavioral support they receive at school, which varies widely from school to school from none at all to a full time aide. Like all professionals at Olivia’s Place, our specialists work as part of the multidisciplinary team (MDT), both through formal MDT meetings and by routinely checking in with other therapists treating the same children. Overall, our goal is to improve foundational academic skills so our kids can meet their academic potential and be able to work more independently. Most children receive between 1-3 sessions per week of ongoing support, although, we have some parents schedule only a few consultation sessions aimed at teaching them skills and giving them resources to use at home. The sessions may take place at the clinic, or the child’s school or home, depending on the child’s needs and the availability of our team members.

A child’s school or a psychologist most often refers a child for academic support (reading, writing, mathematics) with our team. Sometimes, children are referred by a speech-language pathologist (SLP) for more specialized reading interventions or an occupational therapist (OT) for writing support. For example, we had a client who was referred by an OT for creative writing support. He continued to see the OT for handwriting/fine motor development but received learning support to further develop his creative writing skills and help him better align his verbal and written output. In addition to academic skill development, we also work with children to help them develop better executive functioning skills (e.g., organizational skills, initiation of tasks/homework, juggling multiple tasks, controlling impulses, etc.).

As with the other disciplines, the learning support specialist collaborates with parents and teachers when setting goals and monitoring a child’s progress. When the sessions occur at school, this is often done on a weekly basis and some of the methods used are often introduced into the classroom. For example, with the parent’s consent, a child’s aide was asked to observe a few learning support sessions. The learning support specialist and the aide then created visual supports together that served as cues for both the child’s writing development and to self-monitor his behavior. The child then used these visuals in his classroom, during learning support sessions, and at home when completing his homework.

Learning support typically begins with an informal assessment and interviews with the child’s parent, teacher, and/or other therapists. We find the child’s current functioning/academic level and build from there. Sometimes, our specialists will provide support for team meetings at a child’s school to review their therapy and/or academic goals and discuss strategies to implement in the classroom. Both parents and teachers usually attend these meetings.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services are also offered through our Learning and Behavior Support team. These services include:

  • Behavior Intervention – Targeted at reducing challenging behaviors and adaptive skill building. Includes Functional Behavior Assessment to identify why the behaviors are occurring, home/school observations, and parent training.
  • Early Intervention: Comprehensive evaluation targeted at identifying a young child’s functional skills across various domains (i.e., pre-academic, communication, social, play). Can be used to develop/guide an intensive home program or assess school or inclusion readiness.
  • Short Behavior Assessment: Following a school or home observation, a formal report with recommendations is provided to parents.
  • Behavior Consultation: Face to face meeting with parents to provide strategies and support to better manage their child’s behaviors.
  • Ongoing ABA therapy


All of our learning support specialists and behavior analysts have a background in education, and the majority of our team holds at least one master’s level degree in special education, counseling, and/or behavior analytics. Many have further training in specific intervention tools, such as the Wilson Reading Program and Handwriting Without Tears. We’re all experienced and trained to focus on the process of learning and how to better facilitate learning by identifying different learning styles and addressing different processing areas, such as memory, visual perception, etc. Our goal is help children develop new skills and foster confidence with those skills. We strive to make even the most challenging work more enjoyable.

To summarize, we’re here to help children better access the curriculum. Our work is often focused on reading, writing, and math support while simultaneously developing strategies to address attention and behavior problems, but varies based on client need. The focus of the treatment is on identifying and using the child’s strengths to help her reach her full potential and we strive to follow a family-centered approach as much as possible. We also try to schedule services both at school and home to ensure generalization of the skills across environments and give parents/teachers the opportunity to participate in the sessions. In addition to ongoing therapy, we have been involved in projects helping local schools develop better inclusion practices.

Learn more about our Learning and Behavior Support specialists. To schedule services with our team, please contact us via e-mail or call Olivia’s Place at 5404-0058. If you have not previously received services with us, please take a moment to complete and return our intake form so that we can better understand your needs.