Designing with autism in mind

Architects play a critical role in creating environments that are aesthetically pleasing and also sensory-friendly. But how can architects design and organise elements such as acoustics, lighting, colour and space planning to make this possible? A magazine article on designing with autism in mind has some answers.

Architects can design clear circulation paths, minimise clutter and visual distractions. Distinct zones for quiet reflection provides comfort when needed.

A long corridor with blue flooring in a large building with natural light from above and bright paintings on the walls white walls.

The article begins with an overview of some of the current thinking about autism and autistic people. However, there is debate over whether it is a disorder, as in Autism Spectrum Disorder, or just a different way of being.

The article briefly covers acoustics, lighting, colour, and space planning and distribution. There is an image of an autism friendly group home describing the common areas. This information is applicable in any building and the features are welcoming for everyone.

The article concludes with two videos, one featuring an interior designer, and another featuring an architect. The title of the article is Designing for Autistic Users: Creating Inclusive Spaces.

Autism: Is it a disorder?

A young woman sits on a boardwalk next to water. She has her knees drawn up and is resting her head on her arms and knees. It depicts a level of loneliness or sadness. Autism and the social model of disability. People who are neurodiverse often struggle to shed the the idea that they have some kind of disorder. A medical diagnosis is part of the problem – they become a category, a label. This is particularly the case for people with autism. And there are no two people alike. But what they do share in common is a relatively high suicide rate. Why would this be the case?

Richard Woods explores how the social model of disability can be, and should be, applied to this group. But it might not be enough. Negative language is a major barrier to inclusion based on the medical diagnosis label. Woods argues that the social model fails to explain how any disability is experienced by individuals.

Categorisation under a label is limiting and does little to shift community attitudes and improve individuals’ mental health. In conclusion, the paper calls for the “full emancipation of the autistic population”.

The title of the paper is, Exploring how the social model of disability can be reinvigorated: in response to Jonathan Levitt

Autism isn’t a disorder

A graphic and logo for Autism Awareness. Autism and the social model of disability. Designing with autism in mind.Neurodiverse advocate Siena Castellon, wrote a book for teenage girls based on her own experiences. In a New Scientist article Siena relates the common misconception that she should look different in some way. Because she doesn’t, most people think that she can’t be autistic. This is not a compliment. You can see more of Siena’s story in the New Scientist article, Autism isn’t a defect – here’s why we should embrace neurodiversity. There are more links in the article for further reading. 

Voices of autism in a book

Front cover of the text book.The autism research field has changed a lot in the last 20 years. We now know the impact the research process itself has on people with autism. With this in mind, a new version of a text book has sections written by autistic contributors from all walks of life. 

There is a separate link to the discussion on how the authors went about including people with the lived experience of autism. This link also gives a short chapter by chapter review of the book’s content.

The title of the book is, Autism: A new introduction to psychological theory and current debate. It’s by Sue Fletcher-Watson and Francesca Happe. 


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