The physical learning environment can impact significantly on children and young people on the autism spectrum. It is important to reduce as many barriers as possible and to set students up for success in a predictable, structured and calm environment.
Careful analysis of individual learning needs is necessary to understand their child’s motivation and preferred ways of working. Planned strategies along with places and times for calming breaks may need to be in place support the child in the classroom. Every class is so different, it is hard to say what exactly will suit, what works in my classroom might be very different in yours, depending on the age and ability of your class.
The one consistency is that an over decorated classroom is a no no. I have the numbers, days of the week, colours and the alphabet on the wall. I have a big classroom and these displays are all well spread out. Our art work goes on our noticeboard outside. An overly decorated classroom could be distracting and result in sensory overload for some children.
We have a kidney shaped table for morning songs/circle time, we have two tables joined together for our SESE/sensory work and we have a circle shaped table for art or baking time.
The boys then each have their own individual desks for their TEACCH work time. We were just using regular school desks but they were taking up more room than necessary so we were just ordering these lovely individual work stations from IKEA when the schools closed.
We have a little library area, with these IKEA chairs:
Our sand and water play areas are just in the largest storage box size so they can be stored under a table without taking up loads of room.
We have a chillout space attached to our classroom , a sensory room and a general area where the chidlren can play in the morning or during the day after they have completed all their tasks.
Every ASD class will look completely different, but one thing which remains the same is the need for a highly structured space. You will need to have a clearly defined work station for each child to increase predicitability for them. Try tor educe sensory stimuli as much as you can.
It is likely that your six children will have varying needs and abilities so you will need a lot of resources! We have a sliderobe unit and though it can be annoying when the doors get jammed it is a great space for storing all my resources and ensures they are out of sight, reducing clutter.
Have visuals EVERYWHERE! Lots of children with autism think in pictures so label everything with a picture. Have a visual schedule too and try keep up with changing the activities on it. This can be really hard in a busy classroom but children thrive on it. A picture is worth a thousand words!