Sightlines on the schoolyard and around school

Sightlines on the schoolyard and around school

Recommendation 16
Make sure the spatial design of the schoolyard and the surrounding area allows sufficient sightlines for adequate supervision

Chapter (theme)
Schoolyard / around school (Sightlines/spatial design)

Because of
limitations in interaction and communication, ego-dimension and touch (pain)

In order to
counteract bullying and social exclusion and to notice pain and injury in real time.

Children on the spectrum are bullied frequently, especially in mainstream schools. Often these are traumatic experiences which obstruct their personal development and their social integration in an early stage of their lives.
Adolescents spend about one-third of their time in school (six hours a day for 180 days a year). About one-third of this school time is spent outside formal classrooms (e.g., in the schoolyard, dining room, and corridors). Research shows that of students with Asperger’s or high-functioning autism, half don’t go outside during breaks, probably because there is insufficient supervision by adults to prevent bullying and exclusion by peers. The result for the individual is unnecessary isolation and exclusion.

Supervision is also needed because of over- or undersensitivity to pain, something which can cause extra problems.
Necessary supervision demands a school playground design where oversight – ‘sightlines’ which allow a limited number of teachers (or other supervisors) to oversee the whole terrain – is possible.
Oversight – through sightlines – prevents the bullying or exclusion of students by their peers and makes it easier to monitor those students with “too high” or “too low” pain thresholds . Pupils with “high” pain thresholds who fall or are hurt rarely report this by themselves; not even when acute medical attention is warranted. At the other extreme, autistic children with “low” pain thresholds suffer more pain than others, which is easily underestimated.

Anecdotally: the layout of schoolyards is often such that children are almost forced to either join a group or stay alone. There are rather simple measures – such as the placement of extra objects – which can clutter the area enough so that students spread out more, allowing one to be in the vicinity of a group without pressure to participate; this can be very beneficial for students on the spectrum. See ‘lee-places’.