Stable and clear classrooms

Recommendation 92
Make sure that classrooms convey an atmosphere of ‘clarity’, is uncluttered and that the furniture has fixed places.

Chapter (theme)
Interior design (classrooms)

Because of
ego-weakness, Central Coherence, depending on the severity of the autism

In order to
optimize the clarity and predictability of the learning environment and enhance the concentration of the students.

This recommendation addresses the interior design: clearly, the way the classroom is built is essential for its potential to convey an atmosphere of clarity.
Visual clarity of the classroom is important both from the perspective of the teacher and the student. (For the former we reserved  the concept of ‘sightlines’.)

Predictability and clarity are fundamental needs of people on the spectrum. Both are at issue here.
The concrete advice is to assign fixed places to chairs, tables, cupboards and other classroom furniture and to strictly maintain these. If changes are necessary the advice is to involve the students in such a decision.

The importance of such fixed places is well illustrated with the anecdote about Boris recounted in the theme sightlines where an object in an unexpected place potentially posed a great danger. Boris bumped into a pallet in a corridor and injured himself which could have been the beginning of a chain of events ending in Boris’ meltdown. Because sufficient sightlines were utilized with great alertness by his caregivers adverse consequences were mitigated though the risk would have been avoided altogether if this object had been where it should have been.

This incident involved a long-stay patient with great autistic disabilities (and considerable talents too). For people in a milder range of the spectrum, this recommendation can be applied in a more lenient fashion.

On the basis of their own research, McAllister & Maguire created a set of recommendations aimed at autistic children of 5 to 8 years of age in special education: one of those is to curtail the view of these children upon entering the classroom so they cannot see the outside through opposing windows. The students’ vistas are limited in order to bring activities in the class into focus and to enhance their concentration. Citing the authors: “This was done by either the positioning of the visual timetable and storage shelves or, alternatively, by purposely directing  the pupils’ view towards the main teaching area.”

This recommendation should also be implemented with a measure of strictness commensurate to the severity of the autistic and other limitations of the children in question.