Classroom Environmental Adaptations

Noise canceling headphones reduce noise volume for less distractibility and inappropriate behavior. Low noise volume in the class or home setting also improves classroom behavior. The class noise level should be kept at a low volume. Students tend to behave better when the noise level of the room is kept low.

A fidget is a manipulative or textured toy that is used to provide sensory tactile input so kids don’t touch others and are able to maintain attention. Fidgets and other adaptive equipment can be placed in a comfort box for responsible use during classroom activities to help increase attention and reduce incidences of touching items or individuals without permission. A comfort box is a customized decorated shoebox with the student’s name on it that contains touch and manipulative toys.  A comfort bag is filled with manipulative adaptive equipment and favorite toys or electronic gadgets (e.g., Nintendo D.S.,) that children can only access during high stress times requiring waiting or other high demands (e.g., haircuts, doctor’s appointments, shopping). The child has access to the toys as long as basic rules are followed, but if the child misbehaves all items are returned to the comfort bag and the appointment is ended.

A clinically useful adaptation for providing comforting deep pressure input is the pressure vest. A commercially available pressure vest, or clothing made from Lycra material hug the child providing pressure support. The lycra material can be bought as or sewn into clothes or worn under the child’s clothing. Likewise pressure shorts, bike shorts, or onesie wrestling clothes can be worn as an environmental barrier and sensory strategy to help keep kids from going inside their pants inappropriately.

A study carol is the use of a poster board placed on or between desks to help visually direct student attention to their own work by reducing visual distractions. This is particularly helpful for mainstreamed students who have a one to one assistant and need to visually attend to their desk in a noisy room with lots of movement. Students with sensory modulation or PTSD histories often are hyper-vigilant to those around them and benefit from directing their attention to their desks.

Best Carol Vest

The disk-o-sit is an air filled knubby disk that requires balance adjustments on an unstable surface to promotes subtle movements and provides deep pressure input. Because it challenges the student’s balance it helps with seated attention for students who have difficulty with sustained seated attention but have good balance and are not gravitationally insecure.

Sit: stable strategy involves the use of height and length of seating so children are in an optimally stable sitting position for attending to work and listening. For children with postural balance difficulties and fear of falling optimally stable sitting helps children to feel secure and concentrate on their work. According to the automaticity deficit hypothesis some children need to concentrate to maintain upright sitting and are distracted by this effort from attending or lack adequate postural stability for optimal proficiency in fine motor activities. Optimally stable sitting assures that children are upright and symmetrical, with the chair supporting their pelvis at approximately a ninety degree angle


Koegel, L. K. & LaZebnik, C. (2009). Growing up on the spectrum: A guide to life, love, and learning for teens and young adults with autism and Asperger’s. Penguin.

Kinnealey, M., Pfeiffer, B., Miller, J., Roan, C., Shoener, R., & Ellner, M. L. (2012). Effect of classroom modification on attention and engagement of students with autism or dyspraxia. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66, 511–519.

Pfeiffer, B., Henry, A., Miller, S., Witherell, S. (2008). Effectiveness of Disc ‘O’ Sit cushions on attention to task in second-grade students with attention difficulties. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 62(3), 274-281.


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