If designers are not already thinking about autism, they soon will be, or should be. People with autism have the same rights to functional and accessible spaces as everyone else. In his article Stuart Shell gives an overview of ASD (autism spectrum disorder). He explains why building owners and designers need to include this group, and how it will create great architecture at the same time.
One in one hundred and fifty children were diagnosed with ASD in 2000. ASD can take the form of extra sensory awareness, and higher levels of anxiety or involuntary responses. However, most autistic people say they have their own way of experiencing the world – it’s not a “disorder”. Shell concludes with a list of design options and different guidelines.
A lengthy but very useful article that includes acoustics, lighting, thermal comfort and material finishes and furniture. There is a list of references at the end for further reading. What Autism Teaches Us About Design is an easy and comprehensive read on an important topic.
There’s also the easy to read article, How to Design for Autism. Thoughtful design aims to be inclusive, convenient and welcoming. Designing interiors for children with autism makes for good interiors for children generally. Texture, acoustics and lighting features are applicable to the rest of the world when it comes to designing autism-friendly spaces. The architect behind the design of the Center of Autism and the Developing Brain says the key is to be sensitive to light, sight, textures, and sounds. The article can be downloaded from the CoDesign.com website.
A Literature Review
Interest in autism and building design is a growing field, but who is doing the research? A comprehensive literature review looked at research from 1992-2021. This is one for academics and researchers. The findings can be used to build techniques specific to the themes. Researchers can also discover the most influential publications, authors, and journals in this field to uncover research gaps and fresh discoveries.
Museums and autism
Early Bird quiet sessions are just one of the strategies museums can use to cater for children with autism. Many autistic children have learning difficulties. So thinking about displays and interpretation is their equivalent of accessibility. Autistic visitors can be loyal due to liking routine visits and having an intense interest in a particular subject. When they get older they can become a great asset as volunteers and staff members. You can read more about this topic and successful case studies on the Future of Museums blog, “As we work to increase diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility among museum audiences and in the workplace, we need to attend to the needs of neurodiverse visitors and employees”.
Claire Madge wrote the article. She founded Autism in Museums in UK to further understanding. Once again we are reminded that the noise of electric hand driers in the bathrooms can be scary. Answer – turn them off during Early Bird hours.