Muting, filtering and transforming space: Autistic children's sensory ‘tactics’ for navigating mainstream school space following transition to secondary school

Birkett, Lily; McGrath, Laura and Tucker, Ian (2022). Muting, filtering and transforming space: Autistic children's sensory ‘tactics’ for navigating mainstream school space following transition to secondary school. Emotion, Space and Society, 42, article no. 100872.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.emospa.2022.100872

Abstract

Mainstream school spaces provide significant sensory challenges to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In this paper, we provide in-depth qualitative insight of the ‘sensory tactics’ developed by children to navigate neurotypical spaces following transition to secondary school. Informed by work in sensory geography, and de Certeau's ‘strategies’ and ‘tactics’ concepts, we demonstrate that through muting, filtering and transforming space, children find ways to navigate the sensorially demanding environments of mainstream secondary school, e.g. finding quiet, orderly spaces - albeit in ways that do not entirely negate the sensory challenges the school environment presents. The paper concludes with several recommendations regarding ways that mainstream school spaces can be designed and/or existing spaces altered so as to be more sensitive to the sensory diversity of children with ASD.

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