Have you ever found that a certain environment makes you feel ‘off?’ It might be that the light is too bright, or maybe too dim. Or maybe there’s a weird noise that is annoying and not easy to ignore. It could be that the temperature is not right, or that there is a draft, or it is too stuffy! It’s not abnormal for individuals to find that there are parts of a new environment that are not ideal. For those with well-developed executive function skills, it is usually possible to ignore the troubling aspects of the environment. Or, if it is not possible to ignore the problem, it can often be changed. If the problem can’t be ignored or changed, then perhaps a new environment can be sought and the person can move to a new location that is more desirable.
However, for individuals with executive function (EF) challenges, problems in the environment can be overwhelming. The frustration and anxiety that result from the environmental challenges can cause an emotional response. The individual may find that they are unable to work or function in the troublesome environment. Furthermore, individuals with EF deficits may not realize that they can act to change parts of the environment in order to experience better results.
A tool that can be used to support individuals with EF deficits to problem-solve environmental problems is the PLACE Strategy. It can be used to teach students how to work through challenges in the environment and is effective with students of all ages. It can be used in a variety of environments, from classrooms to home and in the community. The PLACE card is a visual support that defines the process and leads the individual through five questions:
- P – Is there a Problem in my environment?
- L – Can I Let it go? If no, then go to the next question.
- A – What are some Actions I can take?
- C – Which action will I Choose?
- E – Evaluate – Did this work for me?
Responses will be varied, based on individual student needs and the perception of the problem. Adults (teachers or parents) should initially lead students through the problem-solving questions, coaching them to identify the problem and possible solutions. As students become more adept at using the PLACE Strategy, they can lead themselves through the questions, clarifying the problem and identifying possible solutions, choosing one, and reflecting on the usefulness of the solution chosen.
Using the PLACE Strategy is an effective way of dealing with situations that are challenging. It is a strategy that can be used across a variety of situations and with students of different age levels. Problem-solving environmental stressors is a valuable life skill that can be developed through use of a structured process such as PLACE.
For more information visit AAPC Publishing.