The physical and sensory environment

Sensory and physical environment considerations.

  • The physical environment is adapted to meet the needs of children and young people.

    Examples of good practice

    • A purposeful, organised and well-resourced learning environment is provided to encourage independence and active engagement. This includes effective classroom management practice in schools and post-16 settings, learning though play in year years. Routines should be understood and followed.
    • Physical accessibility checks of the building and individual learning spaces are regularly carried out, various tools such as an environmental audit can be used to support this. assessed. The Accessibility Plan in school, post 16 and maintained early years provision is on the website, a hard copy is also available. “Reasonable adjustments” are made according to individual needs. Other early years settings should be encouraged to follow this approach.
    • The furniture is the appropriate size/ height for the child or young person. Favourable seating arrangements are identified, check the individual’s plan provided by specialists e.g. Hearing and visual needs.
    • Extra-curricular activities and educational visits are planned to fully include children and young people with additional needs (in line with the Equalities Act 2010), including those with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs and physical disabilities. “Reasonable adjustments” are made.
    • Children and young people’s views are routinely sought and are used to inform planning for physical support that they may require.
    • In early years, consider the use of Disability Access Fund, to improve the learning environment, for example purchasing acoustic panels to reduce background noise within the setting
  • Staff are aware of sensory needs and issues that may impact on children and young people.

    Examples of good practice

    • The child or young person’s sensory needs are known and used to plan activities, seating arrangements and movement breaks.  Tools such as sensory bags are readily available and can be independently accessed as required.
    • Staff are aware that for some children, a sensory or physical disability could impact on their language and social interaction.
    • Left and right-handed children and young people can use equipment comfortably.
    • Children and young people who wear glasses and/ or hearing aids wear them and are seated in the optimum position. Staff should encourage children and young people to wear appropriate sensory equipment and use physical aids. This information should be included with One Page Profiles and Individual Plans.
    • Displays are meaningful and visually accessible to reduce sensory overload.
    • Children and young people have access to low arousal spaces or regulating activities when needed.
    • A pale background and accessible font styles in a clearly visible marker pen are used on the whiteboard. Consider the amount of stimulation in the form of display areas including the use of colour, surrounding whiteboards.
    • Staff are aware of lighting in the room e.g. use of natural light, glare from the surfaces such as interactive white boards, light streaming through the windows, how fluorescent lighting may have an impact on the child. This includes who is facing the light, where staff stand in relation to the light.
    • Staff are aware of smells and noise in the room and any particular individuals who may be impacted by these. For example, position of the kitchen / canteen / music room, refuse collection day.
    • Staff are aware of the sensory impact that floor surfaces may have on children and young people and alternatives are offered.
    • Staff are aware that some children and young people have a preference for certain clothing and their needs are considered if there is a need to change clothing or for it to be removed. This includes shoes. Some children also find it challenging to wear protective equipment such as water aprons, art apron and lab coats because the material challenges their sensory integration. Staff should use their awareness of the needs of the individual child and respond consistently to support the child’s preference.
    • All sensors experiences are risk assessed to ensure children and young people are kept safe and the risk of any infection being spread is minimised.