Moya Kinnealey, Beth Pfeiffer, Jennifer Miller, Cecilia Roan, Rachel Shoener, Matt L. Ellner; Effect of Classroom Modification on Attention and Engagement of Students With Autism or Dyspraxia. Am J Occup Ther 2012;66(5):511–519. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2012.004010
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Students with autism display sensory sensitivities to environmental stimuli that affect their attending and engagement in classroom learning activities. The purpose of the study was to determine whether attending of 4 male students, ages 13–20, increased after the installation of sound-absorbing walls and halogen lighting. The multiple single-subject, mixed-method design, AB(B+C), included a 2-wk baseline and two intervention phases: 2 wk after sound-absorbing wall installation using the Owens Corning Basement Finishing System™ (Owens Corning, Toledo, OH) and 2 wk after halogen light installation. We calculated nonattending frequencies from videotaped class sessions and used visual analysis to measure within-phase and between-phase characteristics. Results included increased frequency and stability of attending and engagement and improved classroom performance, comfort, and mood. Journaling provided students’ perspective on the modifications and reflected overall increased sensory comfort and themes of improved classroom environment, positive emotional response (mood), and improved classroom performance.
Will students diagnosed with autism or dyspraxia demonstrate increased attention for learning activities after the installation of sound-absorbing wall material? (The material used was the Owens Corning Basement Finishing System™; Owens Corning, Toledo, OH.)
Will students with autism or dyspraxia demonstrate increased attention for learning activities after the installation of halogen lighting?
From the students’ perspective, do sound and lighting modifications affect their ability to attend to classroom activities?
The noise level has really not [been] as loud as it’s been . . . when I am in my classroom it’s nice and quiet . . . my handwriting is much better than it was when we did not have the walls, much more focused in my work than when we did not have the walls.
Yes I did [notice a difference]. Much more calmer than when the big lights shine. . . . I could see my teacher better than before cause the lights are much more dimmer than before, they shined right in my eye. . . . I’m really happy, very happy that I can finally come to a quiet room, finally I can concentrate. . . . I feel like it really has made a difference in the way I learn and the way I work.
less noise better freedom to think . . . great sound-absorbing walls and lights in class I love it. . . . Now less sound bothers me I can hear in class I’m not bombarded . . . free to think . . . less bothered and more focused. . . . Yes thanks to all I love to hear now very kind of you can enjoy voices without fear of pain in my head.
Occupational therapists’ role in school systems should include strategies incorporating universal designs for learning that address the sensory environment and contribute to student self-regulation.
Installation of sound-absorbing walls can improve the classroom attention and engagement of students with auditory sensitivities.
Use of nonfluorescent lighting can improve attention and engagement of students with visual hypersensitivity.
Sensory comfort in a classroom improves attention as well as engagement, mood, and performance of students from the perspective of the students.
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