Classroom design

Recommendation 99
Make sure the classroom has a clear visual structure, easily replaceable and repairable (non ‘vandal-proof’) furniture and make the space ‘pain-free’.

Chapter (theme)
Interior design (classrooms)

Because of
Central coherence, Cognitive shifting, sensory sensitivity (bodily awkwardness and pain), executive functioning

In order to
guarantee or improve the alertness of the students and the quality of the learning environment.

Classrooms are like pressure-cookers: the demands on autistic students are very high. Virtually all the problems discussed on this website come together in classrooms. This makes classroom design a crucial subject. (See the theme ‘classrooms’.)

The visual structure and therefore the lay-out of the classroom, needs to be as clear as possible.

The principles for this are straightforward: keep it functional, the lay-out should visually communicate the goals of the space and where specific activities are located in the class. Refrain from using variegated colors, keep it quiet and sober in all respects. (See for instance this anecdote.)

The autism Toolbox recommends using furniture and its lay-out in order to achieve clarity. Attach fixed and clear rules to each area in the classroom, in the same way one does for the use of the computer.

Frequently, in special education and treatment homes settings where many autistic students are present, ‘vandal-proof’ interior design is used in anticipation of the bodily awkwardness of the students. Christopher Beaver (see the core literature is an architect who takes a stand against this. Such measures may give the school the appearance of a youth penitentiary and are costly too. His alternative are cheap materials for chairs, tables and cupboards which can be easily cleaned, repaired and replaced.

Apart from the more aesthetic aspects, one should also be alert to projections and other parts of the furniture which may cause injury. Roughly finished walls carry the same danger. Both an abnormal pain threshold (high or low) and vestibular problems (more falling) are to be considered in this context. (See ‘Touch and pain in school’.)