Heather Miller Kuhaneck, Jaqueline Kelleher; Development of the Classroom Sensory Environment Assessment (CSEA). Am J Occup Ther 2015;69(6):6906180040. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.019430
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© 2021 American Occupational Therapy Association
The Classroom Sensory Environment Assessment (CSEA) is a tool that provides a means of understanding the impact of a classroom’s sensory environment on student behavior. The purpose of the CSEA is to promote collaboration between occupational therapists and elementary education teachers. In particular, students with autism spectrum disorder included in general education classrooms may benefit from a suitable match created through this collaborative process between the sensory environment and their unique sensory preferences. The development of the CSEA has occurred in multiple stages over 2 yr. This article reports on descriptive results for 152 classrooms and initial reliability results. Descriptive information suggests that classrooms are environments with an enormous variety of sensory experiences that can be quantified. Visual experiences are most frequent. The tool has adequate internal consistency but requires further investigation of interrater reliability and validity.
an occupational therapist . . . evaluates the client’s ability to participate in daily life by considering the client’s history, goals, capacities, and needs; the activities and occupations the client wants and needs to perform; and the environments and context in which these activities and occupations occur [italics added]. (AOTA, 2010, p. S108)
What are the sensory features of the typical general education classroom?
Do general education teachers find the CSEA acceptable, understandable, and worthwhile?
Does the CSEA demonstrate adequate reliability?
Teachers find the process of completing the CSEA beneficial and they value the information it provides.
Commonly reported classroom sensory experiences are primarily visual in nature, but classrooms and schools are often extremely noisy environments as well. These sensory features of classrooms and school environments therefore have the potential to affect the performance of students with ASD who have difficulties with sensory processing.
The CSEA appears to be a promising tool to promote teacher–therapist collaboration, using CSEA ratings in conjunction with assessments of a student’s sensory processing to create a better environmental match for included students.
The limited amount of movement reported in the classroom, coupled with evidence regarding the importance of movement, suggests a possible avenue for collaboration with teachers in relation to improving learning for all students through learning activities that incorporate movement.
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