Creation Guide


Table of Contents

Part 1: Storytelling in escape room for an effective pedagogy
Part 2: How to create an escape room for steam education
Part 3: Resources to find content
Part 4: Practical advice
Part 5: Disorder or disabilities
Part 6: Positive role models for girls
In this chapter, we will see how to create an Escape Room that is inclusive and adaptable to all kinds of pupils. The pupils most likely to encounter peculiar challenges due to their special needs are those with Specific Learning Disorders. First, we will make a small recap on what Specific Learning Disorders are and the challenges they might pose to students in mainstream education. Then, we will identify potential weak points in an Escape Room and the adaptations available to make them more inclusive. Following, we will talk about the role of the Game Master and the importance of debriefing, post-Escape Room, as well as the ensuing improvement process at the end of the ER creation.

1. Introduction: which students are we talking about?

Escape Rooms are good for all pupils in terms of pedagogical potential and engagement, but they might pose specific challenges for certain students. In this chapter, we will cover the case of students with Specific Learning Disorders, but all adaptations will benefit any pupil.
There are different kinds of SLDs, or “Dys”, that can bring about additional challenges to pupils during the Escape Room. Some simple adaptations can be implemented in order to avoid the majority of those additional challenges, and to allow for an inclusive and engaging learning experience for all.
  • SLD:
    First, let us make a small recap of the different SLDs and their accompanying potential challenges. These include Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, Dysphasia and Dyspraxia. All of them are considered as cognitive disorders, meaning they influence the way the brain processes information.

    Dyslexia is the most common Specific Learning Disorder. It translates into difficulties in reading and language-based processing skills. The brain takes longer than usual to identify and connect letters and words with other kinds of knowledge.
    Dysgraphia usually affects a person’s handwriting ability and fine motor skills.
    Dyscalculia translates into difficulties to understand numbers and learn math facts.
    Dysphasia affects a person’s ability to speak and understand spoken words.
    Dyspraxia is characterized by difficulties with fine motor skill such as hand-eye coordination for reading from one line to another or for writing for example. However, this last disorder is generally classified as a Developmental Coordination Disorder and not as a Specific Learning Disorder. However, we will address it nevertheless, as it impacts the learning process and education as well.

  • Other difficulties:
    An added difficulty can come in the form of co-occurrence of several disorders at the same time. According to the 2014 publication of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm), 40% of the children with one “Dys”, a Specific Learning Disorder, also have at least an additional accompanying Dys. ADHD is also one of the additional challenges that can co-occur with SLD and should be addressed as much as possible.

2. Definition of potential challenges

We will now talk about identifying specifically the areas of the ER where the pupil may face some challenges due to their SLD, or other difficulties.
Potential challenges will depend on the potential SLD that the pupils in your ER group have. If you are aware of a pupil having a SLD, it is good to orient your adaptations towards the specific challenges that this pupil has, and to ask them for feedback after the ER to see if they’ve encountered any difficulties. But if you are unaware of the potential pupils with SLD in your classroom, the easiest way to proceed is to make all reasonable design choices possible in order to minimize SLD-related challenges during your ER.

2.1 Identification of ER points to adapt

  • Overview of the Escape Room, which points to tackle?
    Going over your ER project, what are the areas where potential challenges for SLD can occur?

Main potential challenges of each SLD are:
Dyslexia can affect reading fluency, decoding, reading comprehension, memorization, writing, spelling, and sometimes speech.
Dysgraphia can come in the form of difficulties with: spelling, spatial planning on paper, sequencing the sentences into words, composing writing, thinking and writing at the same time, and can also show in overlapping letters or words and inconsistent spacing when writing as well.
Dyscalculia can translate into difficulties memorizing and organizing numbers, calculus, or abstract mathematical operations, telling and estimating time.
Dysphasia can translate into a difficulty to sequence sentences into words. When heard, speech can sometimes sound as a foreign language in which they are unable to tell when one word ends and the next begins.
Dyspraxia translates into difficulties with fine motor skills, movement, and coordination, and consequently with language and speech.

In order to see if your escape room can cause any of the previous challenges, it is always good to go over a checklist to see if you haven’t overlooked anything.

  • Series of checklist questions:
  1. Are all your reading materials readable and adapted?
  2. Are your locks solvable with minimal fine motor skills?
  3. Is your environment free of unnecessary distractions?
  4. Are your ER paths clear and logical?
  5. Are the structure and rules of the escape room clear from the beginning of the ER?
  6. Is the space allocated to the ER accessible to all pupils?
  7. Is the way you are going to organise the ER in the classroom going to be efficient and practical?
  8. Is the time constraint clear to the players?
  9. Have you tested your ER already?
  • Rating the challenges
On a scale of difficulty of 1 to 10 for example, how to classify the potential difficulty of certain tasks and what to look out for?
Depending on the level of the pupils that are going to solve the Escape Room, it may be useful to give a specific rate of difficulty of all challenges. This will allow for a later comparison with how difficult the pupils perceived the challenges, and if the difficulty was well-estimated by the teacher beforehand. If a big discrepancy appeared between both numbers for one particular challenge, the perhaps its design will need some adjustments.
Additionally, a structure map of all the clues, the enigmas and the ER solving paths is useful to have for the teacher in order to know where they are in the escape room, how much time they took to solve each step, and to mark off any hurdles that a team could encounter.

2.2 Adaptation of those challenges

Once the potential challenges have been identified, what are the possible adaptations/alternatives that can be put into place?
  • Challenges with reading clues or enigmas if written in improper fonts or in overlapping text/words.

Solution: For all written texts, you may follow the pedagogical guide’s chapter on inclusion advice about written texts.

As a reminder: Choose an inclusive font (OpenDys, Arial, …) in a size between 12 to 14, with a spacing of 1.5, and aligned to the left (not justified). Also, avoid using italics or underlined text. Be careful of the contrast of the text to be sufficient. A way to check if the contrast is enough can be on the following link Colors Contrast Checker.

  • Challenges with distinguishing sounds when using spoken language.

Solution: Multiplying the mediums of communication. Do not give all clues through a phone for example, but also have small papers to write the clues down. Or, if you do use vocal records, make sure the pronunciation and sound quality is on top.

  • Challenges with solving locks due to too many fine motor skills needed
Solution: using bigger locks, or locks that don’t require fine motor skills to open. Simple key locks are okay for example.
  • Challenges with concentrating and moving around the ER due to overload of sensory information or unsuitable room set up: cluttered space, confusing space allocations, etc.

Solution: Prepare a plan of your ER set up beforehand and test it with friends. Take note of any practical problems and of the space needed depending on the number of pupils participating.

  • Challenges in solving riddles due to confusing lettering or numbers ensembles.

Solution: rely on logical puzzles and simple yet subtle riddles. If complicated letterings and numbers are required, try to present them in a manner that is as airy and structured as possible.

  • Challenges in estimating time

Solution: Reminder of the importance to handle the time management during the Escape Room needs to be made before the Escape Room. A person responsible for the timer can also be named before-hand. Visual reminders of the time remaining (with color-codes for urgency for example) can be used for more efficiency.

  • Poor communication

Solution: Reminder of the importance to communicate well with the team before the beginning of the Escape Room. A pupil can be designated as responsible to check that everyone is communicating well during the Escape Room before-hand as well.
Also, additional clues and game master help need to be given in a clear manner as well.

  • Shutdown due to overstimulation

Solution:As with the rest of the Escape Room, a test first is a good way of noticing if a background noise for example is setting the ambiance as intended or if it is too distracting. As with any things, while multisensory clues are a good thing, too many sensations will defeat the purpose. The idea is to vary the clues’ sources and mediums, not to give everything at once and to overload the pupils’ senses.

Additional tip: Teamwork is a key component of an Escape Room. It is a very good thing to foster collaboration and to make balanced teams. This way, if one pupil has a weak point, it can be compensated by someone else. Asking the teams to communicate all clues out loud is a good way to help with reading challenges as well for example. Teams need to be diversified and with pupils that complete each other’s set of skills.

  • Possible general practical adaptations:
  1. Locks
    Use minimal fine motor skills to solve locks. This doesn’t mean that easier locks should be found, but that the mechanism used to open them should not require fine motor skills. Making the lock bigger is a way to minimize that for example.
  2. Clues
    Using the prescribed written materials advice to write the clues is one way to ensure that everyone is able to decipher it properly. This doesn’t mean, again, that the clue should be easier, just legible.
  3. Puzzles
    Again, avoiding the need for fine motor skills by making the puzzle pieces bigger or legible (if it’s a cipher puzzle for example) are the most important aspects.
  4. Riddles
    As specified above, written materials inclusion advice should be followed, but another way to circumvent the problem could be to multiply the ways in which riddles or clues are given: oral riddles, images instead of words, etc.
  5. Atmosphere
    The atmosphere is also key, but as in any good game, it should not be overpowering. There is nothing more frustrating inside a video game for example, than to have repetitive music or sounds that are way too loud throughout the whole game. Atmospheric elements are there to add to the experience, not overpower it. Sensory overload is also something that should be avoided. Discrete ambient music or sounds can be a nice addition, but should stay something that is pleasant.
  6. Props
    As with the atmosphere, the props can add some immersive aspects to the ER but it is important not to overload the ER with useless props. Props will allow you to create the atmosphere, but also to hide the clues more efficiently in the ER. However, your ER should not resemble a cluttered second-hand store either. Again, the overflow of information is never good and could even lead, in the case of props at least, to injuries.
  • Possible technological adaptations/aids
  1. Reading device
    Another way to circumvent the challenges of the written materials is to equip pupils with marked reading-related learning disorders with a reading device, for example. Perhaps even to remind the whole team that reading clues aloud is also a good way to advance the Escape Room and to allow all team members to participate as well. Communication is after all, key in the solving of ER.
  2. Auditory help
    Another form of help that could come in handy for some pupils is an audio help. That is to say, a device that would read the instructions aloud when given a specific QR code, in the manner of audio guides in museums.
  3. Visual aids
    In the case of specific writing in special fonts that are not dys-friendly (for example, a handwritten letter with Edwardian script), it could be interesting to make a QR code available to a pupil that has a reading disorder, so that they could scan it to access a digital dys-friendly version on their phone.
  4. Apps
    Some apps will allow dys pupils to decipher written texts more easily if necessary, for example. Some apps can download texts and adapt them to a pre-set format that is chosen as ideal by the pupil.

3. Game-master support

  • In-game support and guidance
During the ER, it is possible that a pupil encounters a challenge that was either unexpected, or whose difficulty was underestimated during the design of the ER. The role of the Game-master is to subtly support the players in the ER in order to stir them out of their dead-end, without taking from the gaming experience. This part will be about achieving this result. The Game master needs to be unobtrusive to the ER experience but is essential to the good unfolding of the Escape Room.
  • In-game observations
The game-masters are also able to observe and identify possible previously undetected weak points or challenges in the ER. It is important to take note of those for further improvement of the ER.

3. Debriefing process

The importance of debriefing to improve your ER afterwards is even more essential in the case of SLD. Here there will be steps to take to collect feedback on the efficiency of the Escape Room and how your potential adaptations impacted the game play.
  • Identification of unexpected challenges
After the ER, were there any unexpected challenges for the pupils, especially the pupils with SLD? If yes, what were those challenges and how did they pose a problem?
The idea here is to identify if the additional challenges were due to something related to their Learning Disorders, or if it was related to the design of the ER itself. Designing the difficulty and the different paths to solving the room may prove very tricky. The ER needs to be challenging enough to create interest and gratification when they finally solve it: not too challenging that they get stuck and frustrated, and not too easy that they get bored. This balance is quite difficult to attain and may necessitate several ER versions and trials to get it just right.
  • Positive feedback on adaptations
Other important questions to answer post-ER are:
  1. Did the pupils (especially with SLD) notice any adaptations and how would they rate their usefulness?
  2. How did the activities go for the whole group?
  3. How did the adaptations impact the overall gameplay?
Indeed, adaptations may have been noticed by the pupils they were meant for and they may have found them useful. It is not only the challenges and points for improvement that are important to identify, but also the elements of adaptations that were worked, and were positive for the group. To do that, post ER surveys may help in providing feedback to identify points of improvement or difficulties.

5. Improvement of the creation of an inclusive Escape Room

  • Post ER surveys
How to design a small post-ER survey to continuously improve the process? The different ways to go about it.
A post-ER survey to give to the pupils who experienced the Escape Room is an interesting step to include into your ER-making journey. It will help you identify weak points in your narrative or in your design.
  1. Did the path(s) designed to solve the ER work?
  2. Were the different clues leading to the right answers without problems?
  3. What were the most difficult moments of the ER?
  4. Were there enigmas or riddles that were too easy?
  5. Was the challenge motivating/enough/too much?
  6. Did they find the final answer? If not, why?
  7. Do they have comments on how to improve the ER?
  8. What elements did they prefer?
  9. Was the experience fun?
  • The adaptative diary
The adaptive diary is a document to fill in progressively and to keep by the teacher or educator creating the ER. Keeping track of the evolution of the design of the escape room, especially in terms of inclusion, can help other people in the future to design their own ER.
Holding up a diary with all the adaptations, for which pupils, or group of pupils, the general feedback received, etc. basically a diary of what works and what doesn’t is very useful for other educators, teachers, etc. who want to make inclusive pedagogical ER.
In this diary, you can also include the feedback from the pupils, both with and without Dys, and take note of their observations and experience with the ER.


Practical advice

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Positive role models for girls