The year has begun at The Community School. We have some new faces, some new initiatives, and a whole new set of challenges (mixed in with some of the old ones). It is thrilling to have students and young adult program participants back in our midst. While many of our students have been engaged in wonderful summer activities, I was struck by a conversation I had with some of the young adults recently. Boredom had surfaced as a major problem for them in recent weeks. On the one hand, I was pleased that they were happy to be hiking again. On the other hand, I was reminded of how challenging it is for lots of the individuals we work with to make productive use of their free time. This difficulty can be related to many different sources–executive functioning challenges, problems with emotional regulation, constricted problem-solving skills–but, over time, it leads to a common set of additional challenges, including depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.
At The Community School, one of the things we focus on throughout an individual’s experience with us is a set of “functional emotional developmental capacities” that underlie all higher level functioning (thinking, problem-solving, emotional repair, perspective-taking). The better able someone is to calm themselves, to be regulated, and to be engaged, and then as a result to be interactive, the more able they are to navigate their life in connected, meaningful ways, including overcoming boredom. We help people to understand their own bodies, to find ways to be calm, organized and engaged, and to interact–through play, through conversation, through productive activity, through physical movement–and this interaction strengthens all of those higher level capacities.
It sounds simple, and in many ways it truly is. But every individual is just that–an individual. Part of the art and science of this work is knowing how to connect with each individual given his or her individual differences in sensory reactivity, in language processing, in visual-spatial processing, in motor system functioning, and in neuro-developmental capacities (including memory and attention). We study the students and participants here very carefully to understand how each works, and we use these profiles to find was to connect meaningfully.
We encourage you to ask us questions. I know there is often a lot of anxiety about raising these kinds of children and about giving them over to us to educate, especially since we seem to educate a little unconventionally relative to other programs. But we believe that what we do really works, and we are glad to help you understand our thinking.