What is the best learning environment for your child? Group setting with peers or a one-on-one setting with an adult?

“The answer to this question can vary hugely depending primarily on two factors:
a) Your child’s ability to regulate themselves, process, and filter sensory input.
b) What level your child is currently at in their social development.

“Determining what is the best learning environment for your child will help you address any learning differences your child might have. For a child who might not be ready for a group setting with peers yet, the one-on-one setting with an adult would prepare this child, so they can later join a group-setting environment.

“Many families, who choose to do a Son-Rise Program, find that their children are not yet ready to be in a group environment with peers (for example: in school). But after running The Son-Rise Program for some time, they find that they can help their children learn the necessary skills needed to regulate themselves and socially engage so they can successfully participate in a group-setting type of learning environment.

“Let me share the story of Elisa with you! When Elisa’s parents first started running a Son-Rise Program for her, Elisa could not look or engage with another person for more than a minute or two. Therefore, she was not able to carry on a conversation or learn from people. Elisa was not able to pay attention to her teachers, would move away from her peers in school, and would spend most of the recess time by herself pacing around the schoolyard. At that point, Elisa’s parents decided to take her out of school, temporarily, and run a Son-Rise Program until she was ready for more social interaction. After a couple of years, Elisa returned to school! By that time, her parents had worked with her one-on-one in a Son-Rise Program playroom, and Elisa’s interactive attention span, eye contact, and verbal communication increased hugely. Elisa was having conversations, was interested in people, was able to play with her siblings and peers, all thanks to the work that her parents did with her at home.

“Some children, especially Neuro-Typical (NT) children, learn way more when they are in a group setting, surrounded by other children, but this is not often true for all children. For children who have learning differences, especially for those on the autism spectrum being in a group setting with peers can have the opposite effect (until they can regulate themselves and gain the necessary social skills needed).

“For most neuro-typical children being around other children is a powerful way for them to learn new skills. A parent could spend several weeks trying to get their NT child to get dressed, to put on their shoes, or put on their jacket by themselves. Yet, this same child would quickly learn this new skill by just watching their friends do that before going outside for recess at school. If you have a second child with NT, you might have watched your younger one learn things without you having to put any effort into teaching them because they had the best role model in their lives – their big brother or big sister. Seemingly “learning-by-osmosis” that happens for our NT children does not often happen for our children on the autism spectrum. Our children on the spectrum are a lot more challenged by being around other children, not to mention being able to learn from them.

“To learn from peers in a group setting – a child needs to have the ability to process and filter out sensory input so he/she does not become over-stimulated and can focus long enough on the other person so they can learn. This same child would also need to have enough basic social skills and a good level of flexibility that allows him/ her to engage successfully with a peer. Especially with one who is inevitably unpredictable, full of energy, and does not necessarily communicate clearly and straightforwardly.

“Our children on the autism spectrum have an immense challenge processing sensory input, reading social skills, and focusing on another person. Therefore, them relating to another child is one of the most challenging experiences that they can have. Another child can be loud, can take their toys away, can push them, can suddenly decide they are not friends anymore, is unpredictable, and full of energy – all of which can be very challenging for someone on the spectrum. Now, how are our kids supposed to learn from their peers in these highly overstimulating and unpredictable scenarios? They do not often learn as much as we would hope in these scenarios… We often hear parents of children on the spectrum share with us how their children do not even use their already acquired skills that they can use at home, in a group setting (for example, in school). Many of these children are not yet able to learn and retain information when in a group setting until their sensory and social challenges are addressed. That is OK though! Because there is a plan B Or, to be more specific – there is The Son-Rise Program.

“For our children who are not yet at that level of social development and can’t yet process and filter out sensory input, we want to create a “bridge” to reach this gap. We want to prepare our children so that they can eventually participate in group settings – school and other groups activities. For these children, the one-on-one setting – learning from an adult – is the “bridge” that will help prepare them. Here is why the one-on-one setting with an adult might be the most beneficial setting for your child for right now (not forever):
• The one-on-one setting (ideally the setting of a Son-Rise Program playroom) – is a non-distracting, low-stimulation environment, that naturally filters out sensory stimulation allowing our children to relax and learn the important skills, that will later help them engage in group settings with peers.
• When our children spend time in this low-stimulation environment, this helps them learn how to process and filter out sensory input more effectively later.
• In the initial stages of social skills acquisition for someone on the autism spectrum, working with an adult is a lot more effective (than learning side-by-side with peers). Adults can create themselves to be more predictable, flexible, and therefore are much easier to be with and learn from than peers until our children reach a certain level of development. The adults can teach our children on the autism spectrum the necessary social skills that will prepare them for peer interaction, and group settings later.

“In the Son-Rise Program, we find that having our children work with an adult in the one-on-one setting prepares them so that they can later join the group setting with peers more successfully when they are ready.

“If you have a child who right now is falling behind and is not learning in school; or seems to be struggling with that school setting, the Son-Rise Program might be the way to help your child reach this gap and gain the necessary skills that will help him/her later.”

Written by Camila Titone, Senior Son-Rise Program Teacher


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