Creating a Supportive Physical Environment

The environment in which we learn and work impacts our behavior. Spaces that are messy with materials all over the place make it hard to find what you need. A desk facing the window makes it difficult to focus on typing when it is a beautiful sunny day. A quiet work area makes it easier to focus on a reading assignment. We know that having a supportive physical environment can lead to reduced instances of disruptive behavior, but how do we create that environment?
A full ecological assessment of the environments in which a person spends time can be time consuming. It is possible to evaluate the environment in a much less structured way and make changes to better support our individuals. If we focus on making the areas spacious, comfortable, organized, and with minimal distractions, we may decrease disruptive behaviors. Most of the time, we don’t have the ability to knock down walls and make an area larger. To make a small space have more room, remove extraneous furniture. Purchase furniture that is smaller. For example, instead of a couch that is very deep or long, get one that is narrower or not as long.
Consider the uses for the space. What activities will be occurring here? How long are individuals expected to use the space? Is there sufficient lighting for the space’s intended purpose? What’s the temperature? If I am expected to sit for an extended time, is the furniture comfortable? Does sound echo in the room? Are there lots of background noises? Answering these and other similar questions will help you to plan your space.
Use plastic bins, drawer organizers, or other types of containers to get organized. When using a space for multiple activities, ensure that the appropriate materials are available. Keeping materials organized and separate for each activity can make the transitions between activities smooth. This also fosters independence as the individuals know exactly where items are and can access them easily.
Furniture should be appropriate for the activities. We wouldn’t put a couch next to a dining room table! Just because a chair looks nice does not mean it is comfortable. If the chair is to be used in a work space, it should be comfortable to sit in for extended periods of time. It is much easier to focus on work assignments when the seat is supportive and comfortable. An uncomfortable chair leads to more fidgeting and less attention to task. The straight backed, hard chairs that are perfect for dining rooms are not comfortable for watching tv in the living room.
Everyone prefers different temperatures, but we should ensure a space is not too hot or too cold. Age is also a consideration when finding the perfect temperature. Elderly people tend to be cold, so having warmer spaces would be more comfortable. Lowering the fan speed or raising the temperature on the air conditioning system will be helpful. If it is too hot in a space, opening a window or turning on a fan will make the space more pleasant.
Small changes in the environment can impact our individual’s behavior. To find out more information on creating a supportive physical environment join us for our Behavioral Brief