How to design educational spaces for autistic children?

TechNews Writer
Mon Sep 13, 2021

When designing a structure with respect to autistic architecture, buildings may be designed with a new outlook. Spatial zoning should follow the seven Autism ASPECTSS Index – acoustics, spatial sequencing, escape space, compartmentalization, transitions, sensory zoning, and safety. These spatial zones should be accessed through a single circulation axis. The campus plan should be worked out in terms of high/low stimulation zones, circulation, and transitional zones. For example, high-stimulus functions like dance, music, painting, crafts, and psychomotor therapy requiring a high level of alertness can be grouped together, while low stimulus functions speech therapy, one-to-one communication, classrooms, and general workshops requiring a high level of concentration, can be grouped together.

To further facilitate integration possibilities for people with autism, the treatment center must possess interaction spaces designed and placed at the limit between the therapy area and thus the general public spaces. The activities will involve both patients and people from the outside and they will provide benefits for people with autism by observing and learning from the behaviors of normal people.

Also, interaction spaces should have both indoor and outdoor areas so as to hide more levels of sensory stimulation. In this regard, outdoor spaces become very important since they involve a larger degree of unpredictability due to different sound and weather circumstances. Also, by interacting with the patients, people will study their disabilities and necessities and can have a neater task of integrating them into their day-to-day lives.

Service areas in campus including bathrooms, kitchens, and administration, which usually come under the high stimulus zone, should be separated from the low stimulus areas, especially the classrooms.

Dormitories are a must on such campuses, students above the age of 6 years need to learn the basic activities after getting out of their beds, such as brushing teeth, taking a bath, and changing clothes. These activities can be taught in these dormitories or accommodation areas. Such accommodation places may act as a transition towards supervised living off-campus or independent living with the main objective of integration of the autistic into the community.

Recreational or play areas such as sensory gardens, sandpits, and other buffer spaces may act as transitional areas between the low-stimulus “focus” zones and the high-stimulus “alertness” zones.

Thus, in order to create an orderly integration process, necessary provisions need to be taken not only in educating the child but also in the physical space and surrounding context it utilizes. Since architects are the creators of built environments, the task of providing suitable surroundings needs to be taken into consideration.



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Architecture and Design