The Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School is a coeducational residential treatment program for children and adolescents in need of support for profound emotional issues. The school provides young people, ages five to twenty, with a therapeutic and educational environment that recognizes their strengths and needs while challenging them to grow by achieving important developmental and behavioral outcomes.

As an affiliate of the University of Chicago, the School is committed to fostering inquiry into the clinical and treatment needs of troubled children and youth. We are operated by the Leslie Shankman School Corporation which is supported by the Foundation for Emotionally Disturbed Children (FEDC). It is equally dedicated to the education and training of its staff as the next generation of clinical scholars in the mental health field. The interrelated missions of clinical care, inquiry, scholarship and training assist the Orthogenic School in creating the best possible therapeutic and educational model for its students.

To contact our board of directors please click here.

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Founded in 1915, the school received worldwide recognition under the leadership of previous school directors Dr. Bruno Bettelheim, Dr. Jacqui Sanders, and Dr. Betram Cohler. Today it is under the direction of a dynamic team of professional staff that utilizes a wide variety of treatments in the care and support of students at the School. For Additional Information about our School you may be interested in the following books:

  • A Home for the Heart - By Bruno Bettelheim
  • Truant from Life - By Bruno Bettelheim
  • The Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School; Psychodynamic Milieu Therapy in an Education Residential Setting - By Jacqui Sanders
  • A Greenhouse for the Mind - By Jacqui Sanders
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Continuing nearly a century of tradition, the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School at the University of Chicago remains committed to providing the highest quality of intensive therapeutic milieu treatment for children and adolescents struggling with severe emotional challenges. The Orthogenic School provides a comfortable and nurturing family-like residential setting and is staffed by a talented and devoted multidisciplinary team of professionals. The School distinguishes itself by providing highly refined and individualized attention to the unique needs of each of the children who pass through its "Yellow Door" entrance. Working in collaboration with our families, we offer a safe haven and a path to hope as the students move toward becoming happy, productive, and independent young adults.

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  • We all live our professional lives in a manner consistent with our own personal values, mission and vision.
  • We are committed to the School mission.
  • We treat students and their families with the dignity and respect they deserve.
  • The quality of our services must be such that we would be comfortable using them with our own family members.
  • Our services are provided within the context of the student's family, wherever appropriate.
  • We believe all families need some support from time to time, although the kind and degree of support may vary.
  • We believe that communities afford the best opportunity to provide support for families.
  • We believe our services should be based on the student's strengths, not problems.
  • Students should be empowered to take responsibility for their own lives.
  • Services should promote cultural and ethnic identity, and be provided with a respect for difference.
  • An integrated service system within the context of the milieu is provided in recognition that people have holistic, not categorical, needs.
  • Students and their families, where appropriate, should be actively involved in the development and monitoring of their own service plans.
  • All services should continually be evaluated, and modified or eliminated, as indicated.
  • We are committed to advocate on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.
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For more information about our administrative staff please click here.

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  • Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) - www.cwla.org
  • American Association of Residential Treatment Centers (AACRC) - www.aacrc-dc.org
  • National Association of Private Special Education Centers (NAPSEC) - www.napsec.org



The School environment is designed with a combination of indoor and outdoor spaces decorated to create an inviting and pleasing atmosphere so that students can experience a home away from home in which they are cared for and respected. Our School is comprised of five buildings, gardens and a sports field. The School also utilizes the University of Chicago Sports and Library facilities.

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  • Policies and Procedures Regarding Confidentiality, HIPAA
  • Client Rights