Autistic Integration Into the Built Environment

Start Date
End Date
As architects and designers we have a responsibility to provide an inclusive built environment. For the Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) sufferer however, the built environment can be a frightening and confusing place, difficult to negotiate and tolerate. The challenge of integrating more fully into society is denied by an alienating built environment. This barrier can be magnified for ASD pupils in a poorly designed school, where their environment can further distance them from learning. Instead, if more at ease in their surroundings, in an ASD friendly environment, the ASD pupil stands a greater chance of doing better. Whilst researchers have looked at the classroom environment, the transition of classroom to corridor and beyond has so far been largely ignored. However, the need for a well considered threshold between class and corridor needs to be considered. The session begins by outlining why threshold as place and event for the ASD pupil should be given consideration. It then goes onto highlight, through case studies in an Irish context, the opportunities for aiding the ASD pupil integrating in a mainstream school environment through sensitive use of threshold. Finally it highlights in conclusion, some of the benefits for an enriched school environment for all pupils, if considering threshold as design generator. The session presenters go on to compare and contrast the findings of the empirical studies which were conducted in both the UK and the US on the impacts of a few sensory environmental parameters mainly visual and acoustical stimuli on students with autism spectrum disorders’s behaviour and performance in school buildings. It concludes with a review of design guidelines for outdoor therapeutic environments for children with autism. The guidelines include the suggestion of ways of combining current
treatments with the outdoor environment, utilizing the benefits of natural environments and developing techniques of spatial design for the improvement of fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination, and provide opportunities for socializing, etc.
Chicago, IL
Distance Learning
Course Equivalency
Healthcare & Therapeutic Design
Health, Safety and Welfare
Learning Outcomes
1.Increased understanding of the importance of threshold for the Autistic Spectrum Disorder pupil
2. Increased awareness of the design possibilities when using threshold as place and event.
3. Understand sensory triggers within the built learning environment that influence the behavior of individuals with autism
4. Understand ways to alleviate undesirable behavior in the built learning environment for individuals with autism.
Keith McAllister, Barry Maguire, Ghasson Shabha, Kristi Gaines, Yuan-Yu Chang, Chun-Yen Chang
Course Codes
Environmental Design Research Association

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