Location selection of or by a school

Recommendation 4
Decide the location of a school on the basis of student and/or target group characteristics, an estimate of future possibilities and the environmental circumstances impinging on sensory sensitivities

Chapter (theme)
Location (location)

Because of
all the autism and ego-characteristics of the student concerned

In order to
strike a balance between the opportunities and risks of education.

This recommendation is primarily aimed at school boards and stakeholders making decisions about the site location of a new school but also at parents, students and others who decide about individual school choice.

Decision makers about school location are advised to consider the following: have you developed a clear and coherent vision of your autistic ‘target group’ or groups? At the one extreme there may be students requiring education in combination with treatment: if so, the advice is to physically separate both and locate them at walking distance from each other, preferably on the same terrain. At the other extreme, students may do well in regular schools when only minor adaptations are made.

A second consideration: what is the expected future for the students? If the expectation is that a sheltered environment will always be necessary, because of persistent social and/or sensory handicaps, the stimuli-levels need to be low on all counts and it’s advisable to choose a school (or an environment for a planned school) which is relatively distant from the urban bustle; preferably close to nature. (Think of noise, air-quality (smell), light etc.)
If, by contrast, one expects the student to fully participate in society and function (semi-)independently, then a regular school deserves consideration, probably with minor adaptations.

In all cases it’s important to note that the sensory circumstances in most schools are sub-standard and affect autistic students disproportionally. Location is relevant since the indoor circumstances are related to the environment around schools (unless unusual measures have been taken, such as double glazing). This mainly concerns particulate matter, high and low temperatures and noise.

Both types of decision makers – those who make individual school choices and those who decide on the location of a new school – are confronted with very similar and common dilemma’s in decision making around people on the spectrum. For example, avoiding risk jeopardizes opportunities for development but taking on too many challenges carries the opposite danger. There is no recipe for the golden mean; each individual decision demands a conscientious weighing of all relevant considerations.

For further deliberations also see social integration and education.