One’s own space in school

Recommendation 54
Create spaces and other facilities which enable students to retreat

Chapter (theme)
Architectural spaces (time-out spaces)

Because of
nearly all autism and ego-characteristics

In order to
temporarily reduce the most taxing appeals in order to prevent or recover from overcharging.

In describing ‘time-out spaces’, various places were sketched out where people on the spectrum can retreat. There we referred to the authors from ‘the core literature‘ who mention their own variation of an ideal withdrawal space.

As mentioned in the theme of this recommendation the need for one’s own space can be tied to virtually any autistic limitation or idiosyncrasy. If one is alone there are no social or communicative weaknesses. If the space is sealed, then sound, light, smell and other sensations won’t penetrate and one is safeguarded from sensory overload. And when small enough the same is true for proprioceptive and vestibular difficulties. If sufficiently small and simple the withdrawal space won’t tax one’s shifting or central coherence abilities, and so on.
(The snoozling room is the only exception to this general rule.)

The school situation offers only limited opportunities in this respect: because it’s a place or learning which involves at least teachers, one cannot retreat completely, unless for a short time outside classes.

Imagine a continuum ranging from complete isolation in a hiding place to a place in the classroom, experienced by the student as his/her own which, however, doesn’t entail privacy or control.

As a matter of definition a hiding place is secret and cannot be provided by a school (although it can in certain instances be tolerated). Between one’s own place in the classroom and a hiding place there are, in increasing measure of seclusion:

  • a ‘lee place’ allowing limited social participation from the sidelines, such as on the playground, without being fully drawn into the action (see also isolation at school)
  • zones in the classroom ranging from a dividing line on the floor to a semi-isolated space in the classroom (see the theme ‘zoning’ and recommendations 30, 99 and 100)
  • a separate space adjoining the classroom
  • a separate (class-)room which serves as a safe haven for one or more autistic students (see recommendation 57)
  • a sensory suite (also recommendation 57).

Preferably all these spaces should be constructed  and/or facilitated by schools that teach autistic students.

privacy or control

The Dutch special education architects Fuchs et. al (Fuchs, Angelika, Rhea Harbers, Rosita Steltenpool, SAMEN! Passende huisvesting voor passend onderwijs, Bussum, THOTH, 2012) say that one’s own place in a classroom “admittedly offers the possibility of appropriation and occupation, but no possibility of privacy, in the sense that the child itself can control the rapprochement of others to themselves.”