OK so we know that environment is everything. We know that in an autism home we should eliminate bad sensory triggers such as fluorescents, loud fridges, bad smells, cigarette smoke, perfume, yappy dogs and all the other things that can set a young autist into a sensory tailspin.
We know we should get them outside in nature and move move move.
But what if we can’t?
What if we are stuck with a bad, autism-unfriendly environment and have to serve our young austists there? what if we are teachers in special ed and we have a room with no windows, linoleum floor, fluorescent strip lights, echoey noise and no playground, let alone forest, because there is no recess/break time outside? Sadly this is often the case.
So if you are stuck with this kind of negative environment, here is how you can make it over.
Step 1: kill the overhead florescent and replace with either freestanding lamps that you can fix to the walls, or wall sconces that you can plug into the sockets and which throw the light upward.
Step 2: plant a forest and create a snuggle den. It’s easier than you think. Buy several free standing plants of about 3 feet high and create little woodland corners in, say, two of the room's corners. Then in the space where you crawl in between those plants and the corner put down soft rugs and cushions so the child can crawl in and find a quite spot when they need to under the leaves.
Step 3: put the tables and chairs around the edges of the room and have rugs and cushions in the center where kids can roll around and lay, not have to sit on chairs at desks
Step 4: Put beautiful art of the walls, preferably depicting nature.
Step 5: Have a lot of natural objects - antler, bone, fur, smooth river pebbles, a little paddling pool filled with of soft wood chippings, pine branches cut fresh from the forest that smell good, smooth wood...
Step 6: create good scent: lavender essential oil, sandalwood, rosemary, eucalyptus - these quickly and easily replace the residue smell of industrial cleaning solvents.
Step 7: Music - softly playing baroque classical, reggae to other brain building, regularly patterned music always works well.
Step 8: make the room reflect your own passionate interests - if you’re into Renaissance Art, Tolkien, Ballet, Polish Folk Dance - whatever - make sure you have a lot of images of that on the walls so that you yourself think - ahhhhhh - when you walk into the room that you’re going to have to spend all day in.
Step 9: have a classroom dog - though I know that in many schools now there are no animals aloud. OK have lifelike big cuddly dogs and other animals that at least reflect the animal kingdom.
Step 10: natural sounds - when not having the right kinds of music have birdsong, sea sounds, falling water soundtracks playing that again help pattern the human brain to planet earth rather than planet super Mario
Step11: even with this great room get out of it and into the woods as quickly as you can each day.
But when you can’t, at least you will have created an environment that makes the best of a bad job and will give you and your kiddos the best chance of sensory and cognitive success.
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