Space Matters: Learning Outcomes Begin with the Right Room

Colors, patterns and material selections impact outcomes and require critical consideration in designing spaces for children and adults with special needs. Whether in formal school settings or in our homes, the right teaching environment is vital to creating a successful space to nurture our child’s learning. There are several strategies we as parents, teachers, or school administrators can employ to ensure we are creating learning environments that encourage independence, foster creativity and support life and vocational skills.


Four Stages of Raising Autism

Raising Autism™, the topic of a forthcoming book by certified autism specialist Cathy Purple Cherry, discusses how the autism experience has the potential to be transformative through the evolution, development, growth and ultimate empowerment of the entire family unit.

Autism is a family affair. As parents, we do not raise a child on the autism spectrum―we raise a family impacted by the joys and challenges of autism. The effects of autism are far-reaching, extending well beyond one individual diagnosis.



Raising Autism: A Family Affair

The Cherry family knows autism. In 1996, Cathy and Michael Cherry traveled to Russia to meet Matthew for the first time. They quickly found themselves interacting with a 3-year-old whose actions could only be described as chaotic. Once in the states and old enough for a diagnosis around age 3, Matthew was shown to have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and fetal alcohol syndrome. Later, with two other children in the household, Jason, the middle child, and Samantha, the youngest, the Cherry family began a lifelong journey to understand autism and to raise a family with compassion, patience, and, most importantly, humor.


Environment: The Third Teacher

Through legislation of the past 35 years providing rights to children with disabilities, the buildings and environment supporting these and all children have transformed to what they are today: accessible, modern, well-lit, spacious and more. As an architect and the 53-year-old mother of a 20-year-old son on the autism spectrum, I’ve watched what the congregate voice of parents of children with autism has done for change to the academic world. This massive wave of vocal individuals is impacting not only the environments for children and adults with autism, but also the settings for individuals with disabilities as a whole. Further, I believe that the Autism Movement has given a greater voice to parents of children with other disabilities as well.  The full article is available on Read full article

The Ideal Home for the Autistic Child: Physiological Rationale for Design Strategies

By Catherine Purple Cherry, AIA, LEED AP, and Lauren Underwood, PhD

Along with behavioral and educational strategies used to teach and assist children with autism, there are ways to influence their success through alteration and treatment of their physical environments. It is important to create a home environment that accommodates the different needs of the autistic child and takes into account the rest of the family’s needs in relationship to that child.

Part 1: Sensory Response Functions

To begin to understand what areas of the home environment can change to support children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), it is helpful to first understand some of the physiological issues that can necessitate attention to structural and design features of the child’s home and other environments. Primary among these are ASD children’s sensory response ….

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