For Children Tips For Building A Predictable Environment For Your Child
At Ramapo for Children, our work is grounded in the conviction that
children of all abilities seek the same things: to learn, have friends, feel
valued, and experience success. When the demands of a child's environment are
misaligned with his or her social and emotional skills, frustrating and
disruptive behaviors occur. To help children succeed-whether they are on the
spectrum, have a learning disability, or simply don't yet have the tools to
control their outbursts-the adults in their lives need to help children align
their behaviors with their aspirations.
With 90 years of
experience, Ramapo for Children has developed a unique ability to create
inclusive environments that promote positive behavioral change, foster skill
development, and help support learning and personal growth. As we have honed our
expertise in working on behalf of children who face obstacles to learning, we
have seen that children with special needs need predictable and supportive
environments to be able to improve their social and emotional skills.
As parents work to connect with their children, here are a few tools to keep in
mind that Ramapo for Children uses and teaches to create predictable
Establish limits, act firmly, and follow through. Being firm in your
words and actions allows children to borrow your strength and determination.
Working with children
with special needs can be disorienting and unpredictable at times, and adults
may not always feel confident in their ability to handle situations. However, it
is vitally important that they make every effort to appear in control, because
the absence of confidence in adults leads to great anxiety in children with
special needs. Adults must be prepared to establish clear boundaries, explain
the reasons these boundaries have been established, and consistently enforce the
boundaries so children know what to expect.
Use your child's interests to reinforce positive behavior. Recognizing
what interests your child and integrating engaging topics in other activities is
critical to nurturing a relationship and, ultimately, to building valuable
No two children with special needs are the same, and adults need to take the
time to understand a child's uniqueness and interests. Once you can engage with
children and their preferred topics, utilize elements of these interests to help
them engage in structured, productive activities. Does your child focus on
fairies and fairy tales? Deliver his or her daily schedule by "fairy mail" to
make it more engaging. Does he or she love trains? Offer more "train time" with
a playmate when your child meets behavioral expectations, with clear guidelines
of how they can reach their goals. Gradually decrease the role and frequency of
your child's interest when engaging in other activities, and the skills gained
will continue to stick.
Develop consistent routines and schedules. Giving children time to
anticipate activities decreases negative behavior and enables children to feel
prepared for what comes next.
Changes in activities
can be challenging for all children, especially those with special needs, and
transitions are often the time when the most disruptive behavior occurs. Plan
ahead: Visually post schedules so your child can anticipate the day. Consider
carefully how to transition your child from one activity to another. Be
consistent, and make sure that your child knows what to expect from transitions
and when they will occur.
Be aware of your child's triggers. Identify your child's sensory
triggers (bright lights, loud noises, textures) and social-emotional triggers
(certain tasks or words), and avoid or minimize them as much as possible.
Everyone has something that sets them off. While most adults have strategies to
deal with these "triggers" that they've gained from experience, children tend to
act out in frustration and often can't identify what it is that bothers them. To
help your child with his or her triggers, keep a record of the sensory and
social-emotional triggers that make the day harder. Not all triggers can be
predicted, but the goal is to "prepare, minimize, and avoid" for your child:
Prepare children for triggers you know will set them off. Minimize the
frequency, intensity, and duration as much as possible. Avoid the trigger
altogether if possible, especially if your child's reaction will negatively
impact the rest of the day.
Over the past 90
years, Ramapo for Children has developed a unique ability to create environments
that help children of all abilities align their behaviors with their
aspirations. Through highly regarded training programs for adults and direct
service youth programs that support nearly 20,000 participants each year, we
have seen that building a predictable environment for a child with special needs
is an important and achievable goal. Though your child's challenges may seem
daunting, the behavior management skills Ramapo teaches can help parents create
a consistent, supportive structure for children that leads to better
relationships and improved skills.
by Kyle Avery
About Ramapo for
Ramapo for Children helps youth align their behaviors with their aspirations
through four distinct program areas: Ramapo Training, which provides parents,
educators, and youth workers with practical tools for managing difficult
behaviors and fostering environments that support success; Ramapo Retreats,
year-round adventure-based experiences for youth and adults that provide
strategies for successful communication, teamwork, and leadership; Camp Ramapo,
a residential summer camp that serves over 550 children ages 6 to 16 who are
affected by social emotional, or learning challenges; and the Staff Assistant
Experience, a transition-to-independence program for young adults who are on the
cusp of self-sufficiency. For more information about Ramapo for Children, please
or contact Kyle Avery at 646.588.2308 or firstname.lastname@example.org.