Since March 2020, we have all assuredly witnessed firsthand the importance of our community – our friends, family, co-workers, and loved ones who supported us, helped us deal with the layers of adversity, and played a critical role in helping us come out of the pandemic stronger.
While ecosystems are important to all individuals, they are especially crucial to the caregivers and families of neurodivergent learners. Ecosystems for these individuals help provide a sense of belonging for those going through similar experiences, but also serve as a community or network of confidantes and advisors who can help give families direction when time is of the essence.
Educational professionals play a starring role in learner ecosystems and help bolster them as they provide a listening ear, a credible source of support and validate recommendations to parents.
Let’s take a look at how these ecosystems operate and examine the role they play for neurodivergent learners, their parents, and the professionals who comprise them.
What is a Learner Ecosystem?
I see a learner’s ecosystem as a community that provides layers of vital support to its members.
You may be working closely with a psychologist, a learner’s teacher, and a behaviorist. But what if your learner’s teacher says you need to start working with a Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP)? Many parents would instantly feel a sense of confusion or anxiety because they have very little idea where to begin in contacting an SLP, vetting them, and initiating support services. Maybe the psychologist recommends that you find an Executive Functioning Coach for your child, which sparks questions for many caregivers: Are there any in your area who have the availability to see your child, and what qualifications are required? Starting these processes can be daunting and therefore cause a time delay, preventing caregivers and their children from getting started on their journey towards reaching their full potential.
Creating an ecosystem for your learner–from the professionals you work with to your fellow parents to social media groups and online forums–can provide you with a powerful set of resources that can make your search for answers more effective and less time consuming. It’s also vital to reducing stress and anxiety, so you can put your best foot forward and set your learner up for success.