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Child Development School

The UC Irvine Health Child Development School offers a unique, classroom-based program for children with ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and other neuro-developmental conditions.

The only program of its kind in Orange County and the surrounding region, our school uses evidence-based methods to help children whose behavioral or developmental disorders make it difficult to function in regular school and social settings.

Our school provides a regular education curriculum to about 90 children in grades 1 through 7. Our goal is to help each child return to the public school setting as quickly as is clinically appropriate.

For more information about the school program or to schedule a tour, please call us at 949-824-2343.

Our teachers at the Child Development School are credentialed by the state of California. They also have certifications and extensive training in behavioral interventions.

We have a ratio of one staff member for every five students, and our curriculum follows state academic standards.

Early intervention

Our program is designed to intervene early, and in the least restrictive environment possible, with children whose behavioral disorders might otherwise cause them to be placed in residential treatment facilities, juvenile hall court schools or more restrictive special education schools.

Students receive behavioral support in a safe academic setting and during daily group social-skills training. Parents participate in weekly family group coaching. We work with our students to help them return to a public school setting as quickly as clinically appropriate.

Other services include:
  • Neuropsychological assessments
  • Psychological assessments
  • Psychoeducational evaluations
  • Cognitive-behavioral interventions
  • Family therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Educational consultation and training

Leaders in school-based treatment

A National Institutes of Mental Health study on the treatment of ADHD used our program as the model for school-based behavioral interventions. Participation in that study and others established our program as a national and international leader in the careful identification and diagnosis of ADHD, and in developing successful strategies to help children with neurodevelopmental and behavioral disorders.

Our goal is to help children reach their social, emotional and academic potential.

At the Child Development School, we also offer psychosocial, educational and other support services for families of children with social challenges and behavioral difficulties.

Help for parents

These services include evening courses in parenting techniques, social skills, reading fluency intervention groups and individual cognitive behavior therapy. We also offer transition services for children and families in the months after leaving the school, and a special Junior Counselor program for our alumni.

Financial support

Families experiencing significant financial hardship may be eligible for support under the state Mental Health Services Act through the Orange County Healthcare Agency's Prevention & Early Intervention Programs.

Limited financial assistance also may be available through the gifts of generous donors. Families who do not qualify for public funding, may qualify for some assistance through our UC Irvine Foundation.

The school accepts applications for admission year-round based on available space. A diagnosis is not required for admission to our school program or to participate in any of our ancillary services. 

To learn more about school enrollment or obtain an application packet, please call our admissions coordinator at 949-824-3028 or email

In addition to our credentialed teachers, the Child Development School is staffed by psychologists, researchers and other health professionals.

We are all dedicated to providing children with attention, behavioral and developmental disorders with a supportive educational environment, one that helps them achieve their academic and social potential.

Our staff members include:
  • Erica Nguyen, MSW, PPS
  • Shauna Ornellas, LMFT
  • Laura Rocha, LMFT
  • Sandra Ruiz, LMFT
  • Lillian Swords, PhD

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