Designing for the Autism Spectrum

Rocky Mountain Green: USGBC Colorado
February 8, 2018, 11:15 AM
Filed under: Autism + Design, Uncategorized, USGBC | Tags: , ,


Another speaking opportunity! I’m very excited to not only be able to continue to present on this topic, but I have been fortunate enough to find like-minded colleagues to collaborate with as well.  I hope I am able to minimize the time between posts with more speaking opportunities and be able to share my experiences as well.

I will be presenting with Meaghan Walls of Assistology in Omaha and Stuart Shell of Forte Building Science (a division of M.E. GROUP). Meaghan is a hands-on engineer whose company provides assistive technology solutions for businesses and individuals. Stuart works in IT for building systems, focusing on optimizing the environment’s performance and the human experience.

Our session for the May 3rd, 2018 regional conference will focus on the sustainability movement and how action in the present moment will increasingly draw from human-centered sciences like ethnography and neuroscience.  We shift the core of the movement from exclusively environmental to empathy – caring for each other, here and now.  There is no better lens to view this transformation from than disability – a cultural construct that limits who can partake in public life.

Discovering Human Experience in Accessibility

What is an accessible design in our age with ADHD and Autism? And what does that have to do with sustainability? Developments in neuroscience and technology provide new approaches to inclusive design. This presentation will illustrate how a person-centered approach to barrier-free design results in better buildings for all users.

May 3rd, 2018

For registration for the conference:


Atmosphere- Action.
November 18, 2013, 10:54 AM
Filed under: Autism + Design | Tags: , , , ,

I had recently submitted an abstract for a paper to present at the 2014 Atmosphere symposium in Winnipeg at the University of Manitoba.  I am happy to say that my paper has been accepted and I will be presenting at this conference in February.  The abstract follows:

Poetic Action for Autism: An Intersubjective Approach

Fueled by our senses, we frame our world view with our experiences and memories. Through narrative and history, we translate these experiences and memories into built form to connect to our society on a transcendental level.  What happens, though, when there is disconnect and we cannot think as our client does?  This paper proposes that we are called to use our design sensibilities to understand the nature of materials, textures, and poetic experiences of architectural space, in consideration for specific rituals for those with autism.  These well established rituals could be used as a holistic “treatment” for those who appear to mainstream society as limited in their mental abilities.

Autism is classified as a specialized disorder in which those affected have minimal to no communication skills and senses that are hypersensitive or restricted.  To be defined in this way is detrimental to those affected by autism.  Their world is experienced through observation rather than “doing.”  Computer programs, video games, TV shows, and medication allow those with autism to retreat into a world of their own; thus, their interaction with the real world becomes static.  Temple Grandin, a professor of Animal Sciences at the University of Colorado, also autistic, states that those with autism are bottom-up thinkers.  They understand the inherent nature of things on a primal level.

In our current means and methods of design, we are also experiencing through observation rather than “doing.”  However, as architects designing specific one-to-one scale objects, we are able to enter the world of an individual and incite within that individual an intersubjective world view.  One-to-one scale objects inform our architectural decisions in a metaphorical way – stretching the perceptions of those with autism that will reawaken their ability to interact with society.