Seating arrangements in the classroom

Recommendation 100
When seating a pupil/student in the classroom, assess and consider the individual’s autistic (including sensory and social) and ego-characteristics as well as a number of basic, common-sense issues

Chapter (theme)
Interior design (classrooms)

Because of
any of the individual autism and ego-problems

In order to
create optimal learning conditions (and to avoid that the very complex and demanding class situation will become the pupils/students undoing).

Elaboration
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. (See the theme ‘the classroom’.) The classroom situation demands assiduity of the caregiver for each individual student; each one of them should be assessed according to his/her strengths and weaknesses before deciding which place in the class is most appropriate.
Although every child is different, the following basic issues should be taken into account.

Students who are vulnerable to bullying by other students and/or have trouble understanding teachers and/or are otherwise in need of special attention should be seated close to the teacher.

Pupils who are easily distracted by – and may be particularly fascinated by – things outside and/or are oversensitive to daylight should not sit near windows with an outside view and/or which let in abundant sun light.

Children distracted by movement should not be seated by a door or main thoroughfare; the same goes for those with a great need for predictability and stability (admittedly in short supply in classrooms).

Students who are transfixed by computers should, if possible, not be seated on a place with a direct view on them.

Children who are over- or under-sensitive to temperature should not be placed near a radiator or a window which lets in warm or cold.

Pupils may be apprehensive of touch by others; they need extra space. See McAllister & Maguire who emphasize this point, advocate a space standard of 10 square meters in schools for special education. (More about space standards here.)

Part of the above is derived from The Autism Toolbox which remarks that regular schools rarely provide sufficient space for autistic students.
And furthermore:
“If a child is uncomfortable with light touch and can become upset / aggressive if touched unexpectedly:

  • Ensure the child is seated near the back and side of the class so he can see others moving towards him.
  • Delineate the area the child is to sit on during ‘Circle Time’ or floor work by using a carpet tile (even better give each child their own tile so as not to make the one child different)
  • Ensure others are not sitting too close
  • Ensure the child is either at the front or the back of the line for coming in/out class. Allow the child to be door monitor so he can hold the door open and all others can pass through ahead of him
  • Arrange for the child to be allowed into the dinner hall ahead of their peers so he can get sorted and seated before the rush starts. (…)”
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