Concentration Difficulties in the School Environment - with focus on children with ADHD, Autism and Down's syndrome

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)


The overall aim of this thesis was to identify environmental factors that affect children with ADHD, autism, and Down's syndrome and their ability to concentrate in their learning environment at school. The issue of this research is not to dismiss any of the additional resources these children are in need of; instead it is to suggest how to arrange learning environments in the most supportive way possible based on the initial needs of these children.

A pronounced ambition concerning the educational policy in Sweden is to organize an all-inclusive school, meaning that schools should be able to meet the needs of all children, irrespective of their capacities and conditions. However, there is no specific guidelines for the school environment as a learning environment considering these children's needs or the needs of those with concentration difficulties. The Human Environment Interaction-model was used to establish the structure of the approach of the thesis, especially concerning the review of previous research, the development of the questions at hand, but also as a holistic method way to fill possible gaps in earlier approaches.

The research has been divided into four empirical studies. The first two studies served as a basis for possible principles of generalization and specifics for each disability concerning influences found in the school environment. In Study I, personal assistants and teachers working on a daily basis with children diagnosed with one of the disabilities were approached. In Study II the professionals approached were working at the Child and Adolescent Habilitation Services, thus having a different relation to the children than the informants in the first study. In both studies questionnaires were being used. The response from the 125 personal assistants and teachers, and 137 professionals at the Child and Adolescent Habilitation Services, revealed school-related environmental factors influencing the children in question and their ability to concentrate. The results sometimes showed different influences depending on which disability the children had. It was shown that aspect, such as, façade apertures and room passages, the view, acoustics, interior furnishing, seating arrangements, size of class and classroom, and decoration could influence the children's ability to concentrate, both positively and negatively.

In Study III six group-work observations were carried out, revealing the need of individual adjustments. The results from that study also highlighted the difficulty in allocating already built classrooms to children with diminished cognitive abilities for the purpose of supporting their different needs. Finally, Study IV demonstrated the application of the principles within the building process, and that the participants tied to school projects in accordance with the cyclic building process has the potential to implement new knowledge.

It may be concluded that these children's ability to concentrate are influenced by the features of their learning environment, which needs to be considered in the allocation of them in the school buildings. It was further concluded, that this knowledge should be implemented in the building process.


  • Catrin Tufvesson
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Building Technologies


  • Down's syndrome, concentration, children, building process, ADHD, the Human Environment Interaction-model, individual adjusment, learning, indoor environment, school environment, Psykologi, Psychology, Humanities, Humaniora, autism
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2007 Sep 28
  • Environmental and Energy Systems Studies, Lund university
Print ISBNs978-91-628-7260-1
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2007-09-28 Time: 09:15 Place: Fullskalelaboratoriet, A-building, Sölvegatan 24, Lund University Faculty of Engineering External reviewer(s) Name: Nordström, Maria Title: Docent Affiliation: Kulturgeografiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet --- The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Environmental Psychology (011036009)

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