Withdrawal spaces around school

Withdrawal spaces around school

Recommendation 17
The (play)ground at school should, if feasible, have places where students can retreat while marginal supervision remains possible

Chapter (theme)
Schoolyard/outside area (sightlines / spatial design)

Because of
sensory sensitivity, limitations in social interaction and communication

In order to
prevent or reduce sensory and social over- (or under-)stimulation; prevent bullying.

Research and personal accounts have established that many children and youths with autism feel threatened and lost at school, especially between classes. In recommendation 54, therefore, the need for spaces where students can partly or totally withdraw, is treated under the theme time-out spaces. The possibilities mentioned there are located inside the school building.
It would be a very good thing if these could also be realized in the (play)area around schools.

Schools which have their own park or are situated in a wooded area will have this opportunity much more often than those in urban areas and lacking sufficient private grounds. In these latter cases the particular opportunities will have to be considered which often will appear to be absent.
If, by contrast, there is nature available, one may add to the other motives for a withdrawal space (recommendation 54 was already mentioned) that of the salutary effects of contact with nature, as indicated in recommendation 14.
In what way outside withdrawal spaces may be created depends on the situation at hand. Suggestions are the placement of objects which may provide shelter, so are hedges, shrubs, trees and the like and/or knolls and mounds.

As always, here too, tension exists between the need for withdrawal and for supervision. Much depends on the lay-out of the area, the severity of the autism and related difficulties and the age of the students; at the Kannerhuis one likes to draw a line at 14 years of age. Above that students may momentarily be out of sight, as long as a supervising adult knows who and where the student is and assuming there is a sound bullying policy. Children in elementary school-age require constant and inconspicuous supervision. For students to whom privacy and supervision are both important, withdrawal spaces are not an option unless a very creative solution is found.