Acoustics and Autism in Schools and Educational Buildings
The BMA have stated that an estimated 700,000 people in the UK have a diagnosis of autism. It is also estimated that one in every 100 children in the UK have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Despite these statistics, awareness around acoustics and environmental effects on individuals is still quite limited.
At Woolly Shepherd we are very aware of and focused on the acoustic needs of autistic children and adults and the negative impact that poor acoustics can have on them. Creating an acoustic environment that supports the needs of those with autism is something that all building owners/tenants should consider as improved acoustics benefits every one of us.
The National Autistic Society state that autistic people may experience sensory differences. This can be a positive thing but can also cause distress or discomfort. Processing everyday sensory information can be difficult for autistic people. Any of their senses may be over- or under-sensitive, or both, at different times. These sensory differences can affect how they feel and act and can have a profound effect on a person’s life.
At Woolly Shepherd the acoustic aspects of these sensory differences are something we can help with.
• may only hear sounds in one ear, the other ear having only partial hearing or none at all
• may not acknowledge particular sounds
• might enjoy crowded, noisy places or bang doors and objects.
• noise can be magnified, and sounds become distorted and muddled
• may be able to hear conversations in the distance
• inability to cut out sounds – notably background noise – leading to difficulties concentrating.
We are specialists in acoustics and have an in-depth knowledge of reverberation and acoustic absorption treatment. We therefore understand how best to create an environment that helps reduce these issues to a minimum. This treatment makes communication clearer, not only for people with autism, but also for the deaf, and for people for whom English is not their first language.
This in turn increases the wellbeing of everyone involved, creating a relaxed and conducive atmosphere for learning and education.
Education is a key part of every child’s life, but too many children with autism in England are not getting the educational support they need. Whilst there are specialist schools available, 71% of children with autism attend mainstream schools.
Architectural guidelines are in place, with requirements for designing and building educational spaces to the levels required for children who have Autism. However often these guidelines are ignored, or the buildings predate these guidelines and are therefore not compliant anyway.
The SEN and disability Act 2001 introduces the right for disabled students not to be discriminated against in education. This means making specific changes and modifications to buildings to facilitate the training and any services provided for these students.
Sound absorption treatment, to reduce reverberation and background noise, should be one of the first steps in making these modifications, creating environments that are autism-friendly. Promoting the inclusion of identified children with special educational needs and disabilities into our educational system.
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