South Etobicoke Business Of The Month
Based in New Toronto, Mandala Educational Therapy provides young people with ASD and other forms of neurodiversity with an inclusive space for learning, creativity, and building connections and friendships. They offer inclusive programs grounded in evidence-based best practices, suiting the interests and strengths of every child.
We ask Doctor and Owner, Amanda Ajodhia about her centre and programming.
- Hi Amanda, can you give us a little background on how MET got started and what your philosophy is?
Mandala Educational Therapy grew from my continuous advocacy for inclusion and equity of young people with neurodevelopmental disabilities in educational settings. I have a professional background as a behavioural therapist and consultant for young people with autism and other neurodevelopmental diversities throughout the GTA. My young clients serve as the catalyst for MET – providing an inclusive learning space for friendship, belonging, and equity for neurodiverse young people. In addition to my therapy work, I taught courses on inclusive education, childhood disabilities, inclusion theories, and creative therapeutic interventions, etc., for many years at Ryerson University (School of Early Childhood Studies) and internationally in Kazakhstan at Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education. I also continue to research areas of inclusive education, diversity, and equity for disabled young people in Canada and in countries such as, Guyana, Cambodia, and Kazakhstan.
Values of inclusion, diversity, and belonging undergird Mandala Educational Therapy. Through my work, studies, teaching, and research, I have dedicated well over 20 years to advocating for the rights of young people with disabilities, specifically those from diverse ethnic backgrounds with neurodevelopmental disabilities, such as ASD. I strongly believe that every young person has a right to an education alongside their peers (to their maximum level of participation), and a right to feel a sense of belonging within their own circles. Mandala Educational Therapy seeks to offer a space for evidence-based learning of skills that empower young people with confidence in their schools and communities, while being creative, artful, positive, and fostering unconditional care and friendships. We also appreciate that a child’s first teacher are their caregivers, and as such we value family input to better understand beliefs, desires, and hopes for your child – each family and child that enters our door becomes part of the Mandala community. It is with this mindset and vision that guide the principles and practices of Mandala Educational Therapy.
- Your centre and its programs focus on children with ASD and other forms of neurodiversity – do you find that our communities need more inclusive programs for children with disabilities?
Although communities of Etobicoke and the GTA are beginning to do a better job at providing inclusive places and highlighting the importance of inclusion and equity, there is a lot more work to do; this is especially true for our young people with neurodevelopmental disabilities. A few years ago I published a book on research I facilitated in Toronto with a small group of young people with neurodevelopmental disabilities, and they shared a strong need for more learning spaces where they feel a sense of confidence, connection, and community (book available on Amazon: Voices and Visions from Ethnoculturally Diverse Young People with Disabilities). Based in New Toronto, MET is a necessary contribution to our vibrant Etobicoke Lakeshore communities, as we are flourishing with diverse families, including my own family who have been members of this community for over 10 years. MET provides a space within our neighborhoods where young people can form an interconnected community of learners united in differences, appreciating all kinds of diversity, including neurodiversity.
- Your centre is unique in that all programs operate with a home environment – why did you decide to open MET in a home setting?
At MET we run all of our programs within a nurturing home-based environment. We find that this setting allows students to feel more comfortable, at ease, and calm. Operating on a smaller scale means that we have smaller group sizes, allowing us to provide more focused individual attention and unique personalized learning experiences for our students. Our “boutique style” approach of a home environment also allows for greater flexibility for families, where we can easily adapt and accommodate for each family and child based on circumstances.
- Can you tell us a bit about your programs and services offered at MET?
In a warm home environment our students engage in creative arts, cooperative games and activities, and other forms of artistic therapeutic interventions (e.g., music and movement, play, poetry, drama, yoga) to develop their skills and confidence in building friendships, as well as academic acumen. Research tells us that once young people feel connected with other peers and feel a sense of belonging in their learning environment, academics and behaviors improve. Research also tells us that for our children to succeed as they develop and enter post-secondary schooling and the workforce, we need to move beyond the traditional 4R’s of reading, (w)riting, reviewing, and reciting toward what I call the 6C’s – creativity, community, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and character. All programs at MET encompass elements of these 6C’s.
We offer the following services for young people with autism, ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, and intellectual disabilities:
- In-person social skills groups (ages 18months-13yrs);
- Full day Saturday social skills groups (ages 2.5yrs-13yrs);
- One-on-one private child sessions – includes academic support and/or in-class support;
- Teen community programs (ages 13yrs-18yrs);
- Transitioning to school (ages 2yrs-6yrs);
- Educational in-school consultation – may involve school observation, attending school meetings, and/or consulting with other professionals that work with your child.
For a description of these, please check out our website at mandalaeducationaltherapy.ca
- Are the teachers/therapists that work at your centre qualified to work with kids with ASD and other forms of neurodiversity?
Yes. All of our teachers/therapists have a professional and educational background in applied behavioural analysis, psychology, and autism and behavioural sciences. Throughout our programs, our teachers/therapists use principles of applied behavioural analysis and engage in inclusive evidence-based best practices from a child-centred lens.
- Is a doctor referral needed to attend your centre?
No referrals are needed to participate in any of our programs, and there is no waitlist.
- How do people learn more about your centre and programs? Are they able to come and visit the centre?
To learn more about our centre, please visit our website at mandalaeducationaltherapy.ca, or if you have specific questions please email me at [email protected]. Also, for new and interested families, I provide a free 30 minute phone consult (416-843-0455).
Families are free to visit us and explore the space during opening hours, and when we are not running programs with children.
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- Is Government funding available for families of MET?
Many of our services are covered through the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) government funding. Additionally, some health care providers, such as Sunlife, Manulife, Bluecross, etc., provide coverage for our services in their benefits package. However, each family case is different and it depends on a number of factors. Families are encouraged to check with insurance providers for eligible coverage of services and entitled amounts.
- What do you love about the work you are doing at the centre?
I love meeting young people and their families. It is amazing to see the growth and positive transformation young people are capable of with the right support, ethic of care, and environment. I think our communities need reminders of the strength, resiliency, and capacity that young people with neurodevelopmental disabilities possess, and they have a right to be heard, to participate, and to feel included in all facets of their community. It is wonderful knowing that MET contributes to their learning and self-confidence as they navigate through their journey of inclusion within schools and society. I am also a proud mother of 2 young children, who are my biggest cheerleaders, and they too are embracing the importance of kindness, love, compassion, and inclusion for all forms of human diversity.
Thank you for chatting with us and for everything you are doing for our community!
To find out more information about Mandala Educational Therapy, contact Dr. Amanda Ajodhia below:
p: 416-843-0455 | www.mandalaeducationaltherapy.ca