Rather than having all spaces be rectangular boxes, incorporating curves creates more “flow.” Predictability can be very important for certain special needs groups. Using curved walls at intersecting corridors allows students to be aware of what is ahead of them. Wayfinding, with signage or color-coding, also provides students an understanding of where they are within a larger building.
Inclusion and the Typical Classroom
Special education is an umbrella under which many niche groups reside. When a district adopts a policy of inclusion, many special needs students spend most of their day in general education classrooms, with both a special education teacher and a classroom teacher. Design elements that can positively impact specific populations, such as students with autism, also positively affect the greater student body. By incorporating simple strategies that impact special needs students positively, SMMA creates designs that benefit the health, safety, and general welfare of ALL students.
Our charge is to bridge the difference between the design of general classrooms and special education classrooms, thereby creating spaces in which all students are comfortable. Included below are some specialty groups typically found in public K-12 schools, as well as some special design elements that SMMA has implemented to provide the best spaces possible.
Pre-kindergarten programs typically serve children aged three to five; some classrooms have both special needs and integrated (i.e., non-special needs) children. All classrooms are based on typical preschool curriculum. Populations vary according to ages, developmental levels, and childrens’ needs. The main goal of pre-kindergarten programs is to assist students in growing and reaching their full potential in all areas of development. Most classrooms are held in half-day sessions; some students attend both morning and afternoon sessions, depending on their individualized education program.
These students have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, or other related disabilities, and typically receive push-in/pull-out services. A focus of these programs is including students in general education classrooms as much as is appropriate for each individual student. Pupils may be included into regular education for both social opportunities and academics, depending on their individual needs and functioning levels.
Students with significant emotional and other needs that require therapeutic and academic support comprise this group. These students also typically receive push-in/pull-out services, and are mainstreamed as much as possible in general education classrooms.
This group comprises students with average to above-average cognitive abilities, significant language-based learning disabilities—these students have trouble with processing language, language acquisition, and learning to read. Programs typically start when students begin applying their reading and writing skills in earnest. Similar to the Inclusion Autism and Social/Emotional groups, these students typically receive push-in/pull-out services—mainly focused on reading, writing, and English—and are mainstreamed as much as possible in general education classrooms. They receive specialized instruction of reading, written, oral, receptive, and expressive language skills, and their curriculum is modified and supplemented to meet their individual needs; the students are also taught compensatory strategies to address their learning needs.