Michelle (Shelly)'s cover image
Michelle (Shelly)

Michelle (Shelly) Dival

Year of Award: 2017 Award State: Western Australia None > Architecture
Social Welfare > Disabilities
To study specialised building design of homes/work places for individuals on the autism spectrum - USA, France, Netherlands, Denmark, UK
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Autism spectrum disorder is often considered a “hidden” disability. It can go undiagnosed, and it is not a condition recognisable by a person’s physical appearance. There are an estimated 1 in 70 people in Australia on the spectrum. It is a lifelong condition and there is no cure. 

The research undertaken and presented in this report argues that specialised building design does provide support and positive benefits to individuals living on the spectrum. Specialised building design can provide benefits in educational, work and home settings. 

An enabling built environment can support individuals who experience hyper or hypo sensory issues, who struggle with social choices and who experience issues relating to cognitive function. This support can be achieved through a variety of architectural methods including the building’s spatial arrangement, the specification of materials, finishes, fixtures and fittings and even colour selection. 

This report outlines and explores several themes that influence architecture for autism, including design theory, methodologies to inform design outcomes and architectural considerations. It highlights the potential broader application of specialised design for other conditions and diseases, provides a discussion of current global research, and discusses how, as a global society, we should be directing further research.

My major recommendations are:

  • That Australia be proactive in undertaking rigorous research into the effects of the built environment on those with autism to inform best practice guidelines.
  • That Government and industry bodies work towards updating policy to include neurological access requirements within building codes and regulation.

Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorder, architecture, architect, designer, building codes and regulation, built environment, disability

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