Making the physical environment more inclusive

Bernie Callanan

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

A couple of years ago my school was awarded the stamp for inclusion. The inspector who visited shared a wonderful idea and I want to share it with you...


Loan a camera to a student who has autism and ask them to take photos around the school of where they feel included and where they feel excluded. The results can then form the basis for a conversation about making things better for them.

This process isn't limited to only autism, it can work for students who seem withdrawn. Where are you happy/unhappy? for example.

You'll gain a unique insight into what is working well for the young person, and what makes them uncomfortable or anxious.

  • Some examples which are very simple include a student hated the corridors. We gave him a pass so he starts lessons 5 minutes late.

  • Another example was where a student found the sports hall unpleasant to be in. It turned out he didn't like the echo. We gave him noise cancelling headphones.

Two boys talking

  •  Some students have explained that certain classrooms make them uncomfortable. The size, or temperature. We've made adjustments by changing their timetable.

  • One student said they get anxious about telling the time (analogue clock in the classroom), we swapped it with a digital clock! 
  • A student who has a hearing impairment told us that at the beginning of lessons it is horrible for her. We asked why and she said the sound of chairs scraping on the floor is deafening. We arranged for pads to be put under the chair legs and spoke to the class about starting the lesson in a calm way. 

There is a great deal to be learned from this process because students engage with it, and appreciate having their voice heard; win-win!


About our Community Expert


Bernie Callanan


Over 10 years of SEN experience in a number of settings. Developed whole-school approaches to ensure students with SEN are catered with the support they need.

Placing the student with SEN at the heart of all decisions made regarding their education, whilst liaising with all stakeholders involved.

Bernie is our education expert who provides SEN related content.

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