Special Education Embodied Design (SpEED)

Aim: Surveying across design research projects developed for different Special Education populations including autistic learners, blind learners, Deaf learners, and learners with high sensory regulation needs, Special Education Embodied Design (SpEED) sets out to develop guiding principles for building and running embodied design for special education students’ learning.

Team members: Sofia Tancredi , Rachel Chen, Christina Krause, Dr. Yue-Ting Siu 

Background and Motivation: SpEEDsters are brought together by a common commitment to studying the implications of embodied cognition for learners in special education. With expertise in communication, sensory regulation, cognition, gesture, and mathematics learning, and with diverse design research projects serving different special education populations, SpEED looks to synthesize across disciplines to unpack the potential of embodied design for rethinking learning accessibility and guiding inclusive educational design.

Current Design-Based Research Projects:

A wooden number line mounted on a stand in front of a wooden balance board. The number line has a black magnetic surface on its upper half, a strip of rainbow lights forming a horizontal line, and numbers along the bottom. The balance board consists of a flat surface with a rug and handles mounted on top of a curved piece of wood such that it can rock right to left.

The Balance Number Line

Focus: The role of sensory regulation in learning for students with sensory hyposensitivity

Research questions: How do sensory regulation and conceptual learning impact each other? How might the integration of sensory-regulatory and math learning movements affect learning outcomes?

Two women smile and one waves at the camera as they sit on the floor with their feet resting on two of four mats. The mats are each a different shape: a hexagon, a heart, a triangle, and a circle. Each also has a different color border: green, pink, orange, and blue.

The Magical Musical Mat

Focus: embodied and interactional practices of autistic individuals as they navigate their social and material world

Research questions: How can we reimagine communication and joint action in special education? How can design be used to surface the communicative competencies of autistic individuals?

Two panels showing different states of a tablet app. In the first panel, the screen background is red. It shows two white bars of different lengths with touchpoint circles at each end. The ratio of left bar to right is roughly 4 to 3. In the second panel, the background is green, and again there are two white bars, this time with a length ratio of 2 to 1.


Focus: The role of sign language in conceptualization of mathematical ideas and the individual and social learning processes of deaf and HoH students

Research questions: What can we learn about mathematical ideas and about learning mathematics through the students’ visual-spatial ways of mathematical interaction and reasoning? How can design approaches use the iconic/gestural potential of signs strengths to provide individual and social learning opportunities for deaf students and beyond?

Publications and Presentations:

Tancredi, S., Chen, R. S. Y., Krause, C., & Siu, Y.–T. (under review). The need for SpEED: Reimagining accessibility through Special Education Embodied Design. In S. L. Macrine & J.M. Fugate (Eds.), Movement matters: How embodied cognition informs teaching and learning.  M.I.T. Press.  

Tancredi, S., Chen, R., & Krause, C. The need for SpEED: special education embodied design. Presentation and panel presented at UC-SpEDDR, UCLA, February 2, 2020.

Chen, R. & Tancredi, S. Centering disability and neurodiversity in embodied design. Presentation at the EMIC Synthesis and Design Workshop: The Future of Embodied Design for Mathematical Imagination and Cognition,  University of Wisconsin, Madison, May, 2019.