Developing a Learning Environment Which Supports Children With Profound Autistic Spectrum Disorder to Engage as\ud Effective Learners.
To date, research studies and first-hand accounts have combined to provide compelling evidence that individuals with autism experience an array of social and sensory-perceptual impairments which impact upon their ability to succeed within traditional educational environments.\ud This study employed evidence-based research to develop a learning environment which supports students with profound autism to engage as effective learners. The research was carried out at a special school for students with severe and complex learning needs. The Mosaic approach (Clark & Moss, 2001) was utilised to enable students and practitioners to co-construct an evidence-base for the design of their new school. By combining participatory action research including observation of student\ud behaviour and engagement, with a grounded theory study incorporating surveys with significant adults, and specifically adapted methods of obtaining direct student voice, this research identified a wide range of issues which require consideration in order to develop a learning environment which accommodates the sensory-perceptual and\ud social impairments characteristic of autism. In summary, the findings reveal that specific consideration should be given to the physical environment, social environment and teaching approach and resources. In particular, the evidence from this study suggests that an autism-specific learning environment is one which: (i) reduces sensory aspects of the physical environment, (ii) provides opportunities for sensory regulatory activities and (iii) targets the visual kinaesthetic learning styles of students with autism.
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