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Evaluating Your Child’s Optimal Learning Environment

As a parent to a child with autism, you want to make sure that they are being given the right tools for growth, in an environment that is condusive to learning for them as an individual. Often, we are told that the professionals know best and we should leave the school setting up to the staff and the plan set forth by those who are “in charge” of creating your child’s learning environments, but is this really in your child’s best interest? It is ok to stop and take a closer look at your child’s school environment because as a parent, you have the right to make sure that your children are given the tools they need for growth in their school setting.

Reasons to Assess Your Child’s Learning/School Environment:

  • To see how the child is doing in the most dynamic environment they are exposed to. – This gives us the ability to adjust our goals outside of the school environment.
  • Making sure the environment supporting your child at their developmental readiness level – Often school systems that are in place can be a one-type-fits-all model, leaving your child’s unique personality out of the plan. But it is about them so it should be about who they are as an individual!
  • Are they doing too much? – This is a good question to ask yourself because most autism treatment models tend to throw every single type of therapy at a child, whether it is beneficial or not. Choosing the interventions and therapies that they need to meet your long term plan can prevent you from having too much on your plate. I’ve always said that if you’re doing too much at one time, there is great likelihood that you cannot do any one of them well – choose carefully!
  • Making sure my child is not in a stressful environment – Is your child stressed? Do they have meltdowns at school, or perhaps later on at home? Maybe the goals in place by the professionals are out of line with what is best and they are pushing your child too far, too fast. You have permission to slow down treatment to a level that works for your family and your child. Less is more, and for a child who is already struggling to make sense of their world, it just does NOT make sense to do too much. I encourage you to think about the fact that parents are often encouraged to do more with their kids. This just overwhelms them. Overscheduling is a big problem in today’s world, and for kids with special needs it can be catastrophic.  
  • In the RDI program we believe that the first goal is to “Do No Harm” – Sometimes this means taking what another well-intentioned professional has recommended and re-evaluating whether or not this fits with YOUR child. You need to make sure that your child has enough energy and strength left at the end of the day to work on their challenges in an environment that will help them grow and develop.
  • Is the staff at the school approachable? – Not just approachable, but responsive to the needs of your child or the recommendations of your consultant? Do they take a collaborative approach? Do you feel that you have a voice?  YOU are the expert of your child, and are the most committed to their quality of life. It’s really critical that parents and educators form positive relationships with unified goals. If you feel that this is not possible, then you also have the power to change this.  
  • Is your child ready for the current environment? Are they being thrown into a “sink or swim” environment, or are they being nurtured for growth?

Parents, I would like to encourage you to believe in yourself and your ability to guide your child. First and foremost your child is a child, not just another person with autism, and we know you want them to be seen for the unique individual that they are, with the same opportunities for growth as their NT peers. If you would like to find an RDI consultant who could help you evaluate your child’s learning environment than send me a message and I can help you connect!

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