During my final year at university I was able to explore the interrelationship between learning modalities and the environment for children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). It was an unforgettable experience and provided me with so much knowledge and understanding when it comes to designing spaces that offer equal learning opportunities to all children. To give you an insight I have provided a preview of my dissertation “Living in a world not designed for them” with a link to enable those that wish to continue reading.

Learning comes through connecting with others, cultures and environments. Every child in Australia deserves the right to access an education and develop a sense of belonging. Schools provide a safe and comfortable learning environment for children, enabling a school to become an understandable space. Unfortunately some children have sensory impairments and are unable to make a connection with the environment. This affects their ability to behave, learn and form relationships with their peers. How can children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) encounter these perceptual difficulties daily. The case studies of three children with ASD were analysed in order to comprehend how sensory impairments disrupt the perceptual experience of an environment. These case studies strongly indicated that there were interrelationships between sensorial impairments and architectural languages. This was furthermore confirmed after two schools which specialise in the learning of children with ASD were analysed. Both schools showed examples of architectural elements which assisted with sensorial impairments. Behaviour and education were being enhanced through the use an architectural language which these children understood. The creation and analysis of three school environments will emphasize and demonstrate why certain architectural interventions need to be applied to schools. These school environments will clearly show how architectural elements can assist in providing all children with equal learning opportunities.

People all over the world communicate, socialise and learn using different languages and dialects. These languages or dialects can only be understood by those who have learnt them. It is difficult for a person from Italy to communicate with someone from Australia. Sure, there will be some similarities to words spoken between the two, and some of the conversation will be understood, but for the most part of the conversation, both the Italian and the Australian will feel utterly confused. Along with verbal languages, there are also architectural languages. When an individual makes sense and belongs to an environment, the architectural language which constitutes that environment has been understood. Generally architectural languages are universally understood and most built environments create a sense of belonging and a place which can be inhabited by different individuals. But for some, their sense of perception is impaired and their ability to comprehend the surrounding environment can sometimes be impossible.

The intention of this dissertation is to inform the reader about those people who are living in a world not designed for them and to step through the process of creating environments which they can understand. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurobehavioral disorder which affects the development of different sensory systems. These sensory systems affect the way we see, feel, hear, move and perceive environments. People with ASD are those who are living in a world not designed for them. This dissertation will use the condition ASD, in particular within the primary school environment, to explore how to generate better environments which all can appreciate and understand. Primary school is a defining environment which teaches children how to communicate, socialise and behave. If children are unable to connect to or understand the school environment, their ability to enhance these skills becomes difficult. In fact this is exactly why children with ASD struggle so much with behavioural and social issues. They struggle so much to develop a sense of belonging with the surrounding environment that their behaviours begin to reflect their estranged perceptual experience of the environment. The key is to understand which architectural elements cause negative and positive behavioural patterns. Through analysing case studies of children and schools, these behavioural malfunctions will be used to extract a series of design elements. These design elements will then be placed together to create a series of architectural proposals for a standard pattern primary school. By designing better schools which cater for children with ASD, it will be inevitable that these schools will also benefit other children in developing a sense of belonging.

To continue reading please follow the link provided.
“Living in a world not designed for them” by Josh White

 By Josh White – Graduate POWE ArchitectsJosh Powe Architects
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Any views or opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of POWE Architects