Disability Friendly Schools

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      There is an increasing number of students with cognitive and physical disabilities entering schools throughout the United States. Unfortunately, not all schools are as equipped with handling those with special needs, so they are less likely to accept and welcome these kids because they do not know how to work with them. There are some schools however that are becoming more involved in creating a welcoming school atmosphere that is able to “boost behavior and academic performance” for those who have special needs. They are focusing on controlling overstimulating sensory factors such as sight, smell and sounds which is something that can be very difficult to handle with children with autism or other developmental disabilities. For example, one school designed their building to work better with these kids by shortening and curving the hallways in order to discourage running. In addition, they also ran larger venting ducts through the hallway ceilings instead of in the classrooms in order to reduce the noise, which can overstimulate some students. The data that has been processed showed that the behavioral issues have decreased, and the academic achievement has increased just by these minor design changes. However, there are also smaller changes that can be made without having to redesign a building such as filling small plastic bags with rice so that kids with a hyperactive disorder have something to fidget with and will not be disturbing to the other class members.

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The fact that these schools are becoming more integrated shows that these schools needed a new way to include those with cognitive disabilities in order to increase their achievement. This idea really ties in with the lessons that we learned about universal design. The idea that society, especially schools, should find ways to create an equal learning space for those who are abled and disabled is extremely important. Those with special needs still want to learn and be surrounded by others, but sometimes it can be too overstimulating for them. I think this is a really good way of making sure they are comfortable and can enjoy going out and becoming socialized with other children who may not have a disability. It makes the children feel ‘normal’ and like they are actually welcomed. It is not hard to make small changes that make the kids more comfortable, but the fact that these schools are actually implementing these ideas is awesome. Another small change that they noticed was that natural light was preferred, while LED bulbs and fluorescent lights caused a flickering and hum, which caused distractions for some and that the shades of the rooms were important and meant to be painted in muted tones. Allowing these kids to have a space where they are anxiety-free and relaxed showed that they were more successful and happier, which I believe is the best thing that can be done for these kids and their families. It must relieve some of the anxieties and worries that the parents of these children have because without the schools help, their child wouldn’t be able to flourish and enjoy their time at school. If they do not have a good time at school, they can bring more behavioral problems home with them, causing even more stress on the parents. Hopefully within the next couple of years, all schools will go through this universal design process and make them more welcoming to the kids with special needs, creating a more positive learning environment.

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