Earlier this year professionals and parents of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) gathered together for the Adult Services and Residential Think Tank at the AutismOne/Generation Rescue Conference in Chicago, Illinois. The presenting panelists included Dr. Dan Burns, Dr. Stephen Shore, Professor James Adams, Robert Krakow, Esq., Anna Huntley, Vicki Martin, RN, Barbara Fischkin and Polly Tommey.
Many tools exist to turn a house into a safe, child-proof home. But beyond safety, other challenges exist when it comes to parents and siblings sharing space with a child on the autism spectrum. As an architect, and the mother of a son with autism, I’ve combined my experience to develop creative yet simple design ideas that help reduce conflict between children with ASD and their family members. If you are designing a brand new home, or considering a renovation, aside from implementing ADA strategies such as wider door openings, here’s a list of items to consider as you design building plans.
- Increase the floor area in tradition-ally tight spaces to allow family members to move throughout the house while allowing children with autism to avoid “forced touching” or feeling like ….
Probably the biggest change we experienced as a family with a special needs son was puberty. With puberty and adolescence came more passive-aggressive behaviors. With age came strength. Now, put the two together, and you have more aggression, whether shown through self-harm or harm to others. The second change involved intentional manipulation of behaviors or reactions but seemingly without any rational thinking. In other words, our son believed if he punched the wall, it would create enough threat that he would maybe win something even though he did not realize that he was losing the battle.
Purpose— goal, reason, idea, principle. At the age of 12, I knew I wanted to be an architect. By the time I was a teenager, I knew I would adopt a child. And by my late thirties, having accomplished both goals, I discovered a new aim: to design buildings and spaces for individuals with special needs. Thus, Purposeful Architecture was born.
Fifteen years ago, we adopted Matthew, our son with special needs from Russia. He was 3 at the time. I never imagined that I would learn so much in such a short period of time. Being an architect, I tend to constantly focus on environmental issues and spatial strategies that support the success of our three children living together. Why would this be an issue? Well, our high-functioning ASD son can struggle with good choices, and during the bad choices, he can cause incredible frustration for our younger children, resulting in enormous conflict. At times, this conflict has been life-threatening. Not always, mind you, but often – especially during his pubescent years.
Starting from the early years, our two younger children continuously experienced invasion of their personal space or trespassing in ….