Last week we looked at the different sensory sensitive approaches to lighting design for autism. We saw how contradictory recommendations have arisen from a lack of reliable research specific to autism and lighting. Conflicting recommendations are not limited to lighting. They can be found among nearly every aspect of autism design, including but not limited to acoustics, tactile and olfactory design. Today we will look at spatial considerations before we turn to the “neuro-typical” approach that contradicts the sensory sensitive approach altogether. At least some if not most individuals with autism preform poorly on tasks that require executive functioning skills, and proprioceptive, visual, and vestibular integration. More simply, they tend to be uncoordinated. Important for architects, this means some individuals with autism struggle understanding their body in relation to itself, the greater environment, and planning their movements through it. For example, Kamran Nazeer, an individual with autism, says, “I am a tall person, but I don’t behave like a tall person. For a long time, I slouched so deeply that I developed sciatic pains in my back and left leg. I frequently bump up against door frames and table edges as I underestimate the size of me.” Temple Grandin compares this poor body awareness to someone who has just lost a limb but still feels it is there; it is difficult to judge where one’s body ends and other parts of the environment begin. With this in mind, it is reasonable to believe that architects, who by tradition are space makers, could, to a small degree, help individuals with autism better comprehend their place in the environment with spatial designs sensitive to their needs. How this can be done is currently unknown.
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