As a special needs architect and the mother of an adult son on the autism spectrum, I know our kids have potential and can learn.

Whether in formal school settings or in our homes, the right teaching environment is vital to creating a successful space to nurture our child’s learning. There are several strategies we as parents, teachers, or school administrators can employ to ensure we are creating learning environments that encourage independence, foster creativity and support life and vocational skills.

Envisioning the environment

While we often think of our child’s learning environment as an inanimate object, provided it results from thoughtful and fluid design, it can be an invaluable teaching tool.

In addition to the strategies illustrated, below are some further design considerations:

  • Use adjustable temperature and lighting control systems for each space

  • Provide soft seating for sensory relaxation

  • Use well-organized storage systems to reduce visual distractions

  • Use softer colors to promote tranquility

  • Use non-toxic and durable materials

  • Display clear and visual reminders of expected rules

  • Minimize avoidable noises to reduce auditory distractions

Flexibility in both the space and the teacher is key. Understanding each child’s uniqueness and modifying the environment to reinforce successful teaching strategies is the design goal.