It is my strong belief that most children are trying their best to learn in classrooms, finish meals at the table, play nicely in game rooms and sleep peacefully in bedrooms. I recently watched a training film created for parents and teachers, everyone was trying very hard to create this sense of harmony for the children and students.
The film addressed mostly how to help children focus in a classroom and touched on a few issues at home. It went into great detail about how to get rid of all that extra energy before the learning begins. A couple of ideas caught my attention. My favorite was being able to sit on a ball for those who need to move or rock while listening and learning. However, I did notice the tremendous amount of negative energy created by the disarray in the classrooms. Interestingly, that was never brought up and from my point of view; it is a crucial element in the equation towards success. Imagine what it must be like when an entire classroom is full of sensory disruptions for a child. Shaking, jumping, wiggling or sitting on balls will not correct that if the room is messy and very loud. The design of the classroom itself must be quieted down, or sensory neutral in order for the children to benefit from these other techniques. Once this is accomplished both students and teachers will benefit.
Most classrooms are screaming with over stimulation. The ever present white board may have eliminated the use of chalk but it has brought in tremendous glare. The unfortunate solution is to over decorate it with bright paper, artwork, lesson plans and then enhance it all with the ubiquitous and unnecessary border.
Colors and shapes accompanied by harsh artificial lighting are all coming at the students from every direction. To that I say...Ouch! Isn’t it is amazing that in spite of all of this, most of these students are able to learn something. Unfortunately, most of what is learned is how to cope. You have seen these kids trying to cope by tuning it all out, screaming, humming constantly, or acting out because the room and it design actually become painful.
Does anyone ever ask children what they would like to see, hear, smell or feel in a classroom? Rooms seem to be set up with an adult’s idea of what a child should or should not like.
It is very important that parents, teachers, and therapists understand that the sensory environment determines the amount of receptiveness to any instruction or therapy given. In other words the therapeutic environment has a direct correlation with how one absorbs information.It is my hope and intent to bring this fact to light with parents, teachers,
and therapist with the intent to assist them in designing environments that are sensory friendly to our very special children
Carolyn Feder TBAE & TAID
Registered Interior Designer