ADHDesign: School design to promote effective learning in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Van Der Watt, Graeme Brett
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Thousands of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in South Africa struggle to function affectively in traditional school environments. Sitting still, listening quietly, following instructions and concentrating are the very things that these children find the most difficult to do, yet this is what is expected of them daily. The aim of this research report is to suggest ways to best design a primary school which can optimally facilitate learning in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As the right to education is written into our constitution, the efficacy of a classroom to promote concentration and learning becomes a matter of accessibility to those with ASD, ADHD or other learning disabilities. If we consider research in the field of Environmental Psychology, it is clear that the elements that make up our surroundings have a marked influence on our behaviour and productivity. (Barber, et al., 2005) (Bieberich & Morgan, 2004) In children who are extra sensitive to the design features of their environments (such as those with ADHD or ASD) these effects are multiplied. To combat these challenges to learning I have explored those specific environmental factors which have been shown to extend periods of concentration, and those that disrupt it. (Evans, 2006) In addition, I have looked at the specific neurodevelopmental deficiencies which impede children with ADHD and ASD during the process of learning and gaining new skills, and propose that an Emotional Intelligence based curriculum would help equip students with the tools to overcome those symptoms of the disorders that will have the most dire implications for them later in life. These principles have dictated the direction of my proposed design for a primary school for children with ASD and ASHD in that the school is arranged in such a way that these children who are extra sensitive to distractions or prone to daydreaming have a space to learn which will aid in concentration, mindfulness and learning. The goal is to ensure that the school will be able to facilitate the extra attention and treatment they require for them to learn and understand the key foundational skills such as reading writing and mathematics. The hope is that by the time they are ready for high school, they will be able to integrate into mainstream classes with all the skills and emotional competencies that they require to excel
A research report submitted in partial fulfillment for the degree Master of Architecture Professional (MArch. Prof) to the School of Architecture and Planning, University of the Witwatersrand, 2020