Several years ago, Susan Moffitt at Autism Key wrote a blog entitled: Interior Design for Children with Autism. The article included some interesting research on color: “In a test of children with autism, 85% saw colors with greater intensity than neurotypical children, with red appearing nearly fluorescent, and vibrating with intensity.” Fascinating! The article goes on to suggest that for most children on the spectrum, softer calmer colors such as blue and greens work best and to keep background stimuli at a minimum (no busy wallpaper patterns for example) as these children sometimes have trouble tuning out visual stimuli. Flooring is also a consideration that is often overlooked: “While carpeting is recommended for its noise reduction and safety features, a pre-finished hardwood floor overlaid with a 100% wool carpet, along with a jute back is best for its low toxicity and minimal chance of provoking allergies.”
In the e-book Interior Design for Autism from Childhood to Adolescence (Wiley eBook Design Shorts 2014) author A.J. Paron-Wildes writes about individuals on the spectrum having a “high fidelity memory for visual or auditory stimuli.” and has been described like a movie camera that records every detail in a space. This helps explain why many students with autism get overwhelmed as they get easily overstimulated. To combat this, the author gives suggested design criteria which includes:
- Using simple environments similar to a minimalist approach: less is more!
- Using stimulating objects or visual accessories only in small doses: a single red seat cushion, yellow placement or one wall poster for example.
- Keeping toys and learning objects stored when not in use: cabinets, cubbies, tubs or other areas that keep them out of the line of sight.
All of these concepts seem like good principles of Universal Design for Learning and not just for kids on the spectrum!
Beside color, lighting, flooring, and maintaining an orderly environment, a dedicated sensory space for calming and encouraging self-regulation is another key concept. Originally used in early childhood and/or SPED classrooms, these quiet spaces are becoming part of gen ed rooms or separate classroom designs. And they work in clinic and home environments too! Our Chill Zone Space includes options for providing deep touch pressure (Weighted Lap Pads & Blankets) and spatial boundary definition (Hammock Swing, Jaxx loungers and PeaPod) as well as fidgets and oral motor tools like the Chewigem Dog Tags.
We hope these ideas will bring out the Designer in YOU! You can find more ideas at our website www.abilitations.com.