To study specialised building design of homes/work places for individuals on the autism spectrum

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Hundreds of thousands of Australians are on the autism spectrum, comprising the largest single disability group in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) with 30 per cent of participants. Even more people identify as having a neurological condition. For many of these people, our buildings, the built environment and even our homes are constant sources of varying challenges. Sensory overload, high levels of stress and anxiety and difficulty in concentration and the feeling of safety can have a detrimental effect on people’s mental wellbeing and the ability to go about day to day living. Autism spectrum disorder is often considered a ‘hidden’ disability, going undiagnosed and not a condition recognisable by a person’s appearance. 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 affected individuals. 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. Major recommendations: • That Australia adopt best practice guidelines and be proactive in undertaking rigorous research into the effects of the built environment on those with autism. • That Government and industry bodies work towards updating policy to include neurological access requirements within building codes and regulation.

Fellow

Michelle Dival

Michelle Dival

WA
2017

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