In an effort to support students with autism, two schools in Geraldton, Australia, have set up alternate workspaces. These spaces are specially designed to minimize sensory overload, provide a quiet space to work, study, reflect, and hit a pause when needed.
The two schools, Wandina Primary School and Champion Bay Senior High School, where these alternate workspaces were opened earlier this year, have deemed this initiative a success. While they have been designed with the needs of autistic students in mind, they can be used by all.
The setup includes a portable work pod plus a relaxation room. This initiative is a part of the Geraldton Lighthouse Project, in which four Geraldton schools have joined their hands to form a $2.6 million partnership. It is a state-funded project aimed at providing better educational services to autistic students with the help of various tailor-made facilities and programs.
Announced in September 2020, the program also connects teachers and admin staff from the four partner schools to create a research and knowledge pool. This comes as a welcome step for the over 200 autistic children enrolled in Geraldton public schools, with several more awaiting assessment.
Speaking about the positive impact of the alternate workspaces, Natalie Worthington, the Literacy and Learning Support Coordinator at Champion Bay told ABC News, “We have a student who has autism and selective mutism due to extreme high anxiety. When he first came to the school he completely shut down and wouldn’t communicate with anyone. Now he will have conversations. He’s got friends in the group; he’s verbalising more and more as the year is gone on.” She also said that patience and making the students feel safe and secure are integral to their social success.