Environment


Many of our students who display the
primary characteristics of FASD thrive in structured, organized and
predictable classroom environments. In this video we will provide suggestions for making
environmental accommodations that will not only benefit your students
with FASD but all students in your classroom. Effective teachers know the value of
creating a highly structured setting as it minimizes the demands to process
and interpret new information. The first key suggestion is to ensure
that your classroom is as uncluttered as possible. Having an organized, orderly classroom
keeps items that may be distracting for a student out of sight and provides
consistency for where materials belong. Having desks, hand in bins, shelving, storage containers and any other
appropriate items clearly labeled provides a sense that everything has a
place. Student desk placement should be another
consideration in creating the structure our students depend on. We want to ensure that a student with
attentional difficulties is seated in areas of the room that have the fewest distractions. Desks placed at the front of rows and
away from classroom doors and heavy traffic areas work best. Many teachers prefer traditional rows as
they provide a defined personal workspace and are
the least distracting. They provide clear traffic patterns and
can also provide seating flexibility as it is relatively easy to move desks into
pairs or larger groupings when needed. Masking tape on the floor can be used to
further define the personal space for a student. In many classrooms, however, teachers
prefer alternate desk arrangements and using different tables or desks for
different uses. In these types of arrangements it is
very important to have specific guidelines for working and for establishing personal workspace. Whichever classroom furniture
arrangement is preferred, we must be able to adapt the environment to suit the
students needs. Many students with FASD can find the
noise of busy classrooms very difficult to cope with. Many teachers find it useful to have
extra quiet places where students can go to work when there’s too much going on around
their desk area. As long as it is during a work time
students should be able to get up and move to an empty quiet workspace if one
is available. These places should be used as safe, non-distracting places to work and not for punishment. If you have access to three walled study
carrels they work extremely well for students
with attention difficulties. If extraneous noise is an issue try some of these ideas; collect some tennis balls and put them
on the ends of chair and desk legs, try playing some quiet calming music
during work times, allow the use of headphones during work
times, set a specific routine for how and when
to use the classroom’s pencil sharpener, close the classroom doors if hallway
noise or activity is an issue. As needed refocus the whole group on the task and
the expectations for working quietly in class. Decorating class room wall space is
common in schools. Although some students with FASD can
become overwhelmed by all of the visual stimulation in the classroom, teachers can help reduce this by keeping
the clutter on the walls to a minimum. Organized and defined spaces for
displays, give a sense of structure and sameness despite the content of the displays
being regularly changed. Another important part of the physical
setup of your classroom is to make use of clear visual supports which have specific places in the classroom. Visual reminders for behavioural
expectations and rules and routines can be an
important part of a student learning to self-regulate their behaviour. Having a specific place on the
blackboard for the day’s schedule is important for students who have
difficulties with time concepts. Visual schedules help all students to
know the shape of the day and what part of the day they are
currently at. The following suggestions are some other
environmental accommodations we can make to ensure a better fit for student with
FASD: try to keep the class room temperature at a comfortable level, make use of natural lighting as much as
possible, allow frequent movement breaks through
each day. You might send a student for a drink from the fountain or do a whole class stretch or game. Provide frequent opportunities for
students to clean and reorganize desks, desk space and lockers. Try to keep your whiteboards as free of
clutter as possible when presenting new information. Having a science diagram and the steps
for an experiment on the board at the same time may be too overwhelming and distracting
for a student with FASD. Color coding binders and duo tangs will help our students to locate these
items more easily. Any accommodation that minimizes the
students cognitive load and or provide support for an area of
deficit allows students with FASD to
function more independently and appropriately. Implementing some of these ideas is a positive step towards creating a classroom environment
where our students will experience success.

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