How you structure a classroom or school environment can make a huge difference in how with autism students will get along in that space. Here’s the truth. Some places are easier to navigate than others.
Here’s a personal example of navigating
I travel quite a bit, which means I spend a lot of time in airports. Most of the time I can find where I need to go by watching the signs. Most airports have great signs to give me the information I need so I can get to the right gate and board the right plane.
But there are times when an airport gets more complicated. Sometimes what I think the signs mean and what they really mean are not the same.
Or worse, sometimes there is no sign at all. I get off an airplane and have just a few minutes to get on my next flight. I look around and there are no signs to let me know what gate I need to go to. I don’t know if I need to turn right or left. No airline staff is visible to ask a question. My heart starts pumping faster. . .my body starts to feel different as I edge into “panic mode” because I don’t want to miss that flight. Whew!!!
Setting up a classroom can be like that
Transition times can be challenging for students. How do they know where to go or what to do when they get there? The way you give them the information can make a big difference in how they will handle that transition. How does a student know when an activity is finished? Does he know what will happen next so he can “get ready”?
Creating an environment in the classroom and in the school where students don’t have to guess or become confused will help them achieve better success. A student who is less anxious, less confused and less frustrated will have more opportunity to learn and enjoy the events of the day.
Navigating an environment that is clearly organized and communicates meaningful information to students is a first step toward having a highly successful school year.