Adapting the Environment

Our model of behavior change stresses using two approaches simultaneously:  prevention and intervention.  Adapting the environment to meet the needs of the child is one way of preventing negative behaviors from occurring.  These ideas have been presented to us by other parents of young children.  We offer them for your consideration.

To ensure safety:

Fence-in a portion of the backyard

Place gates in doorways, such as the child’s bedroom

Place alarms in the doorways leading outside

Install child-proof locks on cabinets, etc.

Keep delicate high-tech equipment out of the child’s reach (i.e., perhaps mounted on wall)

Temporarily remove objects that are misused by the child

To encourage independence:

Have a box/place for toys in the child’s room and in the play area

Have a basket for your child’s favorite objects.

Use adaptive equipment when it is helpful (e.g., grips for utensils if child has fine motor difficulty, velcro fasteners instead of shoe laces)

Use rugs to delineate boundaries for activities, such as toy play

Use a specific seat at the dinner table for your child

Use a specific placemat at your child’s seat which includes pictures to indicate “food” and “drink” and “all done”. Use these pictures during dinner to communicate.

Use a visual schedule

Use a color scheme to indicate what is available to the child (green) and what is off-limits (red).  For example, a red circle might be placed on the door to mom’s study, while a green dot is placed on the door to the play room.

To prevent specific behavioral problems:

Provide appropriate ways for your child to get full-body stimulation – for example, have a rocking chair available if your child likes to rock, or a mini-tramp if s/he likes to jump

Prepare a bag for outings that has a few favorite toys, books, juice, etc.

Have music available in various places (e.g., car, bathroom, etc.)

Create an area of the house which is okay for rough-housing and make the boundaries visually clear to the child.

Create an area of the house which is for calming down (preferably the bedroom) and consider decorating it in muted colors and using music or a water-bubbler or a fan to provide calming sounds.