AUTISMtecture: the influence of architecture on the development of children with autism

Open Access
Doberneck, Dominique Danielle
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Architecture
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Jawaid Haider, Thesis Supervisor
  • Scott W Wing, Honors Advisor
  • autism
  • children
  • architecture
  • development
  • scale
  • materiality
  • wayfinding
  • intervention
In 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, prohibiting the discrimination against people with disabilities. ADA is a constant factor in architectural designs; the code provides very specific regulations for accommodating people with physical disabilities. More difficult to codify, however, are design guidelines for people with non-physical disabilities. People diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are affected in vastly different ways. Though each person has different eccentricities, the Triad of Impairments has been used to diagnose the disorder, and thus can be identified in all people with ASD: impairments of social interaction, social language and communication, and flexibility of thought and imagination. A fourth impairment is often included: of sensory processing and motor skills. Designing for autism is an emerging specialty in architecture. There are many techniques that can be employed to ease the learning process of children with ASD and aid in their social development, allowing for eventual social competency in a world unforgiving to non-physical disabilities. Many of the design techniques that would enhance learning and development in children with autism can also be applied to children without autism. Concepts such as daylighting, acoustical isolation, and wayfinding are all incredibly important when applied to children with autism because of their impairments. The same concepts, however, do not hinder mainstream children, but would actually enhance their learning experiences, as well.