OBJECTIVE. Alternative education programs are schools that accept students who have not been successful in the general education setting. This study focuses on developing a better understanding of the needs of students in three area alternative education schools.

METHODS. A needs assessment was created and distributed to the staff of each school regarding the problem areas of alternative education students. Data were analyzed descriptively.

RESULTS. Thirty-nine of 47 surveys were returned resulting in an overall return rate of 83%. The staff identified several potential deficit areas faced by the students in these alternative education programs. The most frequently identified deficits included poor time management skills, decreased healthy participation in hobbies and leisure activities, and a lack of healthy lifestyle behaviors. In addition, the staff reported that many students had cognitive deficits including reduced ability to follow multistep directions, impaired higher-level thinking skills, reduced attention span, and limited memory.

CONCLUSION. The results of this study are consistent with literature that suggests the students in alternative education settings may have underlying deficits that interfere with learning and produce misbehaviors. The alternative education programs should be further explored as a potential practice area for occupational therapists.

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