Individuals with developmental disabilities, autism, and those with behavioral challenges frequently display behaviors that disrupt the way they learn, communicate, and socialize. This article examines the benefits of organizing the environment to minimize these behaviors and to optimize opportunities for effective communication. It describes how to design a learning environment, including living spaces, to improve behavior, learning, communication, and social skills. It also describes how educators and speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can support expressive communication skills through visual support strategies and symbolic communication systems.
Structuring the Learning Environment to Improve Learning, Behavior, and Organization
Structured, organized classrooms and living environments may assist children with developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, behavior problems, or any other behavior that adversely affects learning, socializing, or communicating. Whether the intent is to improve a child’s adaptation to family routines and expectations, or to improve behavior and learning at school, designing the environment with forethought is a way of accomplishing both ends.
Appropriately engineering the school or home settings allows individuals with an array of behaviors, such as the following, to benefit:
- Individuals who exhibit organizational and directionality challenges.
- Those with memory deficits, particularly memory of locations or the sequential order of tasks and schedules.
- Individuals with auditory processing disorders or sensitivity to auditory stimuli.
- Those with impairment of the visual, tactile, vestibular, olfactory, and proprioceptive senses.
- Individuals with social issues who may be rigid in rituals and routines.
- Children with receptive language deficits who have difficulty comprehending rules and expectations.
- Individuals who are distractible and need fewer distractions during work tasks.