Investigates the impact of school and classroom physical environments on the inclusion of students with disabilities. Researchers analyzed the physical environments of six inclusive schools in three school districts in the state of New Jersey. Half of these schools were newly constructed facilities, built within the past three years, and half were existing schools within the same districts. The findings showed that newer school buildings, designed to be accessible and barrier-free, were generally more supportive of the inclusion of students with physical disabilities. However, for students with intellectual and autism spectrum disorders, other design features had a major impact. Buildings that were predictable, consistent and orderly had a calming effect on students with sensory and behavioral issues and helped them to focus on their work. The ability to reduce environmental stimuli also had a positive impact on students' ability to focus. Classrooms that were configured to allow several activities to happen simultaneously and supported working groups of various sizes, increased teachers' flexibility and promoted interdependence among students. It was also found that many of the small scale environmental modifications that enabled students with disabilities to participate in inclusive educational environments also improved the environment for students who were not classified as having special needs.
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