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Environmental planning for students with Autism Spectrum disorders is a very important factor whose benefits cannot be underrated. As such, Autism in particular, is a life long developmental disability that in actuality prevents people from understanding what they visualize, hear and in the larger perspective what they sense. As a matter of fact, there is the definition that has been given by the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. It defines autism as a pervasive developmental disorder which may be characterized by communication and social interaction impairments. It may also show some restricted, repetitive and stereotypic patterns of behavior, interests and activities as well.
So to speak, autism affects the functioning of ones brain and can actually be revealed in a combination of symptoms. Some autism victims show some level of intellectual disability which may range from mild to severe with some having normal levels of intelligence. In connection to these points, autism spectrum disorders can be defined as a variety of psychological conditions which are distinguished by a wide range of abnormalities. As such, they are abnormalities of social interactions and communication together with severely restricted interests marked by highly repetitive behaviors (Lieberman & Houston-Wilson, 2009, p.87).
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Autism spectrum disorders are not a strange term in the field of education and as such there are students who have been diagnosed with such disorders. In order to deal effectively with such students, it is important to understand the nature of their disability. In essence, students with such disorders will manifest it in four major categories (Lieberman & Houston-Wilson, 2009). They incorporate poor communication, social interaction, unusual behavior and learning characteristics.
Notably, students with autism spectrum disorders show unusual patterns of attention while learning. They are also associated with unusual responses to sensory stimuli along with some characteristics of anxiety. From the point of view of the nature of the students with ASDs, it is prerequisite to have individual education plan abbreviated IEP for such students. Basically, this may sometimes prove to be a great challenge as such students are being educated. It has been established that such students need some kind of support as their needs go beyond the normal program of the school (Sansosti, Powell-Smith & Cowan, 2010). Again in this context, planning should be done in such a manner that the teaching of the student will be effective.
Following this point, the challenge of ASD students can be overcome by adapting a means through which the student can be able to cope with at his or her best. In order to solve the problem faced by ASD students, strategies of environmental adaptations should be implemented. Remarkably, environmental planning for a student is paramount and potentially rich for changing the behavior of the student for maximum outcome in education. Some of the possible ways through which planning of the environment can be achieved is by means of making some adaptations.
So to speak, one way through which the environment can be modified is by means of removing distracting stimuli in relation to the learning of an ASD student. At the same time, it is feasible to reduce the sensory stimuli if practicable (Sansosti, Powell-Smith & Cowan, 2010). Also, it may happen that the student may possess a hypersensitivity aspect to sensory stimuli and as such, the environment should be modified to cab such sensory overloads (Nguyen, 2006). It is also advisable to provide a clear and conventional modification schedule that will work to the benefit of the student. Besides this point, the students' educational program should cover the daily routine sensory experiences that bring about a calming effect.
The modification of the learning environment of an ASD student is mandatory if good results for the students are to be realized. Fundamentally, physical environment Sensory considerations should be taken with great care since if not done it may result to the detriment of the student's learning. Under this category of modification, lighting, sounds, smells, and temperature needs to be put under check. Individuals with ASD especially who have sensory issues such as atypical sensory seeking or avoiding often need environmental modifications. This is given to the reason that environmental modifications are required to make the place of learning conducive for the ASD student.
In addition, using soft light, screening bright windows, using earphones or ear plugs, wearing minimal amounts of perfume, and keeping proper room temperature are important steps towards modifying environment for more security. From the larger perspective, these are just simple examples of some of the steps of how both parents and teachers can modify the environment to meet the needs of students with ASD (Lieberman & Houston-Wilson, 2009).
In combination with this, parents and teachers should work hard to create a safe environment. This is can be achieved by means of arranging furniture to make rooms easier to navigate. This is given to the reason that some ASD students do have motor difficulties in the sense that they may have a problem while walking (Nguyen, 2006). As such, they may be disrupted by the arrangement of furniture in the rooms. This is to suggest that they may end up being hurt or simply injured.
Since individuals with ASD tend to be strong visual processors and learners, visual supports are highly effective. This would help them to come to a level of being taught with efficacy and as such use of visual supports is highly recommended. Visual supports come in many different forms such as objects, photographs, pictures, symbols, signs, and written words. In line with this, they may help to increase comprehension of language and environmental expectations as well as to provide structure and predictability. Additionally, Visual schedules, Choice boards, Sentence strips and Social stories may work to bring about the effective learning of the ASD student (Lieberman & Houston-Wilson, 2009). The sitting position of an ASD matters a lot and as such Alternative seating where student will feel less overwhelmed is highly recommended.
According to Lieberman & Houston-Wilson (2009), environmental modifications are meant to increase an ASD success. For ASD students environmental modifications greatly increase the amount of involvement in physical education for such students. From a broader point of view, the modification can be done by adding keys to lights, closing folding doors and covering windows that create glare among others (Sansosti, Powell-Smith & Cowan, 2010). Along with this, there should be minimization of decorations that may distract the attention of the student. More to the decreased distractions, visual cues, limiting noise, changing lighting and increasing accessibility of the playing area together with accessibility to facilities may work as environmental modification to accommodate the easy learning of the student.
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According to research, students with ASD function well in a classroom environment which is not only organized but predictable (Sansosti, Powell-Smith & Cowan, 2010, p.104). It is also supposed to be minimally decorated and made with simple arrangement. This makes it possible for one to maintain the student focused on academic tasks. If it happens that the chairs are arranged in rows, a student with ASD should sit at the end of the row for the freedom required for him or her to learn with efficacy.
There is another environmental modification that is required. As such, it is the kind that is known as home base. The home base is meant to provide the student with a quiet place to rest when he or she is overwhelmed by the classroom. In a similar manner, the use of visual supports as environmental modifications are aimed at helping students with ASD to anticipate for events upcoming along with any expectations regarding setting or task requirements. In reality, they bring about a sense of security while reducing anxiety (Sansosti, Powell-Smith & Cowan, 2010, p.104-105).
Arguably, individual with ASD have little or no awareness of danger. In order to ensure safety, parents and teachers need to use equipments that help them by warning when the child is in danger. In the same line of thought, locks or high handles should be provided in order to avoid incidences of such students bringing about danger (Nguyen, 2006, p.12).
Electrical sockets should at the same time be located outside bedroom or inside locked cupboards so as to avoid issues of the students getting their figures in the sockets. In line with this, it is a necessary step if taken to ensure that radiators are in-boxed to eliminate the danger of burns. Windows should be made of strengthened safety glass or covered with plastic as some ASD students enjoy the sound of hitting glass and thus this can be avoided to ensure safety. Smells as well should be avoided by means of employing the use of background aroma to block other intruding smells. The environmental modification should also involve the use of plain painted walls to avoid cases of the wall being stripped (Nguyen, 2006, p.14).
From a general point of view, ASD students need to be handled with care and as such, the planning of the individual education plan should incorporate environmental modifications. As it has been highlighted, modification of the environment ensures safety for the ASD students. At the same time, it helps to maximize the success of the student by ensuring his or her full participation thereof.