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Creating an autism friendly sensory space in a classroom is about being creative, and thinking outside the square to how your students different sensory needs can be accommodated.

Begin by making a list

List the different sensory needs that present in your students – are there students who require lots of movement, quiet space, dim lighting, or lots of tactile experiences? Even if there are needs that are complete opposites to each other, don’t despair at this point, it’s just about making a full list of the needs of your students.

Then it’s about brainstorming what you can do with the space that you have. Look objectively at the layout of your room and how it may be manipulated to cater for difference experiences.

Create Zones

Creating zones for different sensory learning or sensory experiences can be a good way to approach things from here.

  • Try using the area of your classroom that is away from natural light for your ‘dimly lit’ space – you could even add some dark coloured light covers to any lighting in this part of the room to keep the area dim even when artificial lights are turned on. For those who need to avoid overstimulating the visual sense, you could also incorporate the use of blue or grey paper for writing on, or use these same colours in overlays or ‘cellophane’ to help with reading.

  • Whilst some students are distracted by movement, others crave it or need it to help them focus. Create a ‘movement’ space that has wobbly stools, move and sit cushions, or therapy balls to sit on, or that has foot pedals under desks or resistance bands on chair legs to enable jiggling and moving while learning. Keep lots of hand held sensory aids on hand to also enable squeezing and manipulating of objects whilst learning (these are a great help for focus and to give tactile learners something to touch and work with).
  • A quiet space is best achieved by partitioning off an area and having things like headphones or ear muffs available for students to use.

Gather equipment and resources

When you have your zones in place, it’s time to gather your equipment. It’s worthwhile remembering that it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to have sensory friendly spaces. You might find that you already have resources lying around that you can adapt, or there may be equipment that you can loan or that families are happy to provide for their children to use. Ask around and you might be surprised with what you can come up with! And if your school is looking to fit out sensory spaces in different areas, it could be worthwhile looking to see if there is funding or community grants available to access.

Acknowledge and validate your students

The most important thing is to acknowledge and validate your student’s sensory experiences, and to encourage other students to learn and be supportive.

Written by Elissa Plumridge

You can watch the video HERE

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