Eight Key Design Issues for Special Needs Environmental Design
Consideration should be given to the placement of windows within each classroom. If windows are held higher, such that when students are sitting down they cannot see motion outside, this will help reduce distraction, yet still allow for natural lighting. Also, the amount of glass within the entry door to each classroom should he minimized to reduce the opportunity to see movement outside the classroom.
The heating and cooling system should be designed so that the temperature in each classroom can be controlled separately to allow the teacher to create the most comfortable environment for her students. Appropriate lighting should be selected to eliminate glare and flickering. Finally, each classroom should be ideally sound isolated from the adjacent spaces.
Emotional Disturbance (ED) issues, such as intermittent explosive disorder or bipolar, can cohabitate with other disabilities. The need, therefore, exists to use durable materials in these school settings.
The following materials can be selected for increased durability – color-thru floor linoleum tile and stained concrete floors; wall protection panels, linoleum wall panels, spray-on durable paints and corner guards; impact resistant drywall, plywood sheathing under drywall, and concrete block. Today’s materials include creative colors, patterns, and textures and can be combined to create a warm, colorful and inviting environment.
At times, students with ED issues also require time-out rooms to allow the child or teen to regain self-control during periods of outburst. These time-out rooms must be durable and ideally sound isolated. Most importantly, these spaces should be separated from the public areas of the school so as to provide the isolated child with greater dignity.
When friends walk by, there is a sense of shame that the secluded student feels. In addition, the distractions that occur to other students in the adjacent corridor are great. The solution to this is to locate this room for privacy. This removes the audience from the isolated individual and removes the disruption from others in adjacent spaces.
General sound levels can create learning problems for students with auditory issues. Sensory bombardment and inappropriate noises can trigger inappropriate actions. White noise from mechanical and electrical systems can interfere with a child’s ability to properly process sound. Design solutions that can assist in managing sound levels include installation of sound absorption materials as wall or ceiling panels, installing carpet in selected areas, placing rubber balls on the bottom of furniture legs, hanging baffles and banners within the classroom, utilizing fabrics on furniture, and installing airflow silencers.
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