The Autism Friendly School
Children on the autism spectrum often struggle to cope with over-stimulating environments (Tufvesson and Tufvesson, 2009) (Gaines et al., 2014) (McAllister, 2010). This can make learning in mainstream primary schools difficult, as students risk being excluded from learning activities. This research suggests that adjustments to mainstream primary school classrooms are necessary to improve learning outcomes and asks, how can the mainstream primary school provide better learning environments for students on the spectrum?
A literature review and analysis of precedent studies provide the background for this research. Surveys of existing classrooms, questionnaires, and focus groups with teachers are the primary data sources. Design is a vital component of the research process and an essential tool for generating discussion in the focus groups.
Analysis of the primary data, together with findings from the literature review and precedent studies, are brought together to inform the development of a design guide. This guide is tested through the formulation and iteration of numerous design proposals, focusing on the remodelling of classrooms in existing primary schools in NZ. Design proposals for new learning environments are also developed and discussed.
The outcome of this research is a design guide that will be essential reading for those involved in the provision and design of learning environments in New Zealand primary schools. It is envisaged that not only students on the autism spectrum will be positively impacted by implementing the architectural solutions outlined in the guide, but all students will benefit.