ASD Appropriate Building Adaptations:
The design brief for the Wherry School building, includes design features to reduce anxiety of the children and reduce stress relating to sensory sensitivity. This reduction in anxiety and anxiety based behaviours is paramount; architects and designers were aware of the need to provide pupils with appropriate personal space in which to learn and function, to ensure that pupils were not overcrowded. (Sensory sensitivity being that some children with an ASD have difficulty processing sensory input often referred to as ‘having sensory sensitivity’ or sensor processing difficulties.
Children with sensory processing difficulties/sensitivity might find that this affects one or more of their seven senses: touch, taste, smell, vision, hearing, balance (vestibular), and body awareness (proprioception). Examples of sensory sensitivities amongst the school community include some children who have very sensitive hearing and may find noise – even background noise – extremely loud, distracting or even painful.) Sensory Sensitivity/Processing Difficulties being co-morbid with Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
Information used in the design process includes acknowledged regard for ASD related behaviours, and the creation of an appropriate environment for pupils with ASD, which is low stimulation, low sensory environments and importantly allows children space.
The school currently has:
- two sensory calm rooms; this is provision for 100+ pupils at present
- break-out spaces are shared small rooms which are within the classrooms, again these are shared spaces and play a role in maintaining safety in the class-settings.
- A further equipped room is a specialist Occupational Therapy space, which is accessed by pupils accompanied by one of the school Occupational Therapists, for direct clinical work, where this is determined by the School commissioned Clinical Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT).
Many children’s EHCPs state that pupils’ needs are best met in calm, consistent school environments, with small group teaching, as the children’s anxiety and stress levels have been aggravated by feeling trapped within a crowded room, or unable to cope with colours, displays, smells; children also find loud and crowded class spaces and corridors stressful and add additional stress and contribute to behaviours and meltdowns.
Times of change are difficult for those with autism and the use of carefully planned transition arrangements, within lessons, throughout the day, week and across the year within a consistent learning environment, are a key element that we develop within the school to support the children and young people with progressing into adulthood and independent lives.