THE HOLDING ENVIRONMENT
The theoretical framework that largely shapes the way CTDS thinks about children is based on the writings and lectures of D.W. Winnicott (England 1886-1971). Dr. Winnicott began his medical career in pediatrics. He became increasingly interested and involved in child psychology and ultimately practiced as a child psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. In his work Winnicott explores the relationships between the child, the family and the outside world. His work focuses on how children mature, and the influence of environment on development. According to Winnicott, the world in which we live is defined by our internal experiences, our relationships and our creativity. Winnicott defines creativity as the process of ‘ doing what arises out of being’. Winnicott makes distinctions between what is natural and what is learned. At CTDS the child with developmental / learning difficulties brings together the teacher, the parent and doctor with the common goal of understanding, caring for and educating the child. This collaboration is called ‘the holding environment’. It is within the concept of the holding environment that: ‘what is not natural, can be learned.’
Since 1974, our staff has worked with the Profile, an assessment tool developed by Dr. Bruce Hauptman, psychiatrist, to evaluate each child’s neurological and emotional development in conjunction with issues of adaptation and dysfunction. Due to early developmental disorders, most of the children in the CTDS community have experienced significant disruptions, delays or deficits in social, emotional, physical, intellectual and linguistic development. The Profile, formally titled ‘The Assessment of Emotional Maturity in the Child’ is designed to gather, organize and understand information relevant to the child, his development and the impact of the environment.
Each member of the treatment team contributes his or her area of expertise to the Profile, which is presented within the first year of the child’s placement and becomes the working document that shapes a child’s educational / therapeutic program. The Profile is updated biannually and follows the child throughout his years at CTDS. The Profile is the standardized teaching / learning tool that enables the CTDS team to measure and assess a child’s progress, or lack of progress, and to adjust the child’s individualized program accordingly.