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 ….
There are several design strategies that can be implemented into K-12 school settings that aid children with special needs to be more successful during their learning years. While there are design guidelines required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) such as ramps, handicapped-accessible bathrooms, and stair railing extensions, there are other non-regulated improvements that greatly increase the ability for children with special needs to learn more successfully.
There is a huge need to provide successfully designed environments for individuals with autism as well as the staff that support them. This opportunity is embraced by Purple Cherry Architects in Annapolis, Md., through their concept of Purpose-Driven Architecture. As firm principal, Cathy Cherry speaks about the design of these buildings and addresses several key issues – personal space requirements, distraction inhibitors, acoustical applications, colors and patterns, time-out rooms, durability of materials, technology enhancements and outdoor spaces.
She states that often “individuals with autism are not aware of the social dance naturally teamed by other typically developing peers. This dance is an instinctual understanding of the necessarily personal space needed between two individuals. A violation of this space can be an invasion of privacy, causing anxiety and conflict.” By understanding the ….