Designing a Home for Someone on the Autism Spectrum

"Over the last decade, investments in autism research and interventions focused on children and adolescents have grown. In 2010 alone, nearly US$350 million funded research projects in the United States.
But autism is a lifelong condition, and just 2 percent of these research funds are focused on the needs of adults. (...)

For example, to make it easier for individuals to assimilate into the community, when adding exterior features such as fencing, it’s important to make sure the materials and forms fit in with the rest of the houses in the neighborhood, and aren’t fortress-like or institutional-looking. In the yard, raised garden beds provide good opportunities for sensory-seeking people with autism to touch and smell plants.

Inside the home, predictability can be a big deal to some on the spectrum. Each room should have an obvious purpose, transitions between rooms should be smooth and their boundaries should be clear. This may help an autistic person establish routines and increase independence, while minimizing anxiety.

There’s also a wide range of technologies that can mitigate stress and promote independence. Installing an exit/entry system with a camera and intercom/telephone allows the resident to preview visitors before opening the door. Meanwhile, activity monitors and task prompting systems can help autistic people feel like they have greater control over their lives and more independence.

For those with sensory sensitivities, air conditioning and heating systems should be as quiet as possible. Ideally, they’ll be situated away from bedrooms to minimize disruption.

In the bedroom, closets with built-in organization systems and good lighting can help with daily dressing and grooming tasks, while in the bathroom, toilets should have heavy-duty seats and bowls to accommodate wear that could come from repetitive movements like bouncing.

Since requirements, needs and tastes of those on the spectrum vary widely, it’s necessary to work closely with residents. The importance of doing this cannot be overemphasized: a well-designed environment that addresses the needs and aspirations of individual residents might not only improve their quality of life and ability to live independently, it could also minimize long-term costs associated with relocating residents when homes aren’t a good fit."

(Architecture & Design)

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Photo via Where Cool Things Happen

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