Internship Blog Post: Designing for Autism Spectrum Disorder

As the intern, I am in college studying interior design and architecture but I have been learning some new ideas that I thought would be really useful for some of the readers. One of my current studio classes revolves around designing for people with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder.) We’ve focused on ways to incorporate these ideas from commercial to residential design and what kind of impact they have on individuals with ASD. And a lot of what we’ve learned are actually great design tips for everyone!

So let’s start with some background information of how people on the Autism Spectrum think differently. Typically, they are more sensitive to light, color, fabrics, and the overall feel of their environment than another person. A space that may be really colorful and fun to someone without ASD could be seen as overstimulating and even create anxiety for someone with ASD. So there are a lot of things to keep in mind.

1. Lighting

Fluorescent lights are a huge no! Something in them actually creates a flickering sound that can be much louder for someone with ASD than someone without it. Going for bulbs that feel like warm, natural light is your best bet. And of course, nothing is better than real, natural light. So large windows that can be easily shaded when needed are extremely necessary. Search for bulbs that are “Full Spectrum” and “flicker-free.”

Options: here, here, and here.

2. Color

Many of us know the general feelings that certain colors give us. But for people with ASD these are proven to create much stronger feelings, so you have to be careful what colors are used and how.

(Colors courtesy of Benjamin Moore)

Red:

-Increase in heart rate and aggression

-Increase in appetite

-An entire room in this color can be too intense and overstimulating

Orange:

-Energetic and warm

-Feels playful and is gender neutral

Yellow:

-Most straining on the eyes

-Increase in energy and concentration

Purple:

-Creates a peaceful, sleepy environment

Green:

-Relaxing and easy on the eyes

-Feels of nature which is very important!

Blue:

-Possibly the best color for ASD

-Very calming and relaxing

-Increase concentration and productivity

3. Fabrics & Materials

Soft fabrics are the safest options because they have the ability to be really calming and stimulating depending on what you use. Animal fur is a great way to bring something fun and enjoyable to touch into your home- sheepskins, cow hide, fluffy materials, etc. It’s also important to keep allergies in mind, so finding items that are hypoallergenic are really important!

1. Sheets // 2. Weighted Blanket // 3. Cow Hide Pouf // 4. Faux Fur Pouf // 5. Shag Wool Pouf // 6. Sheepskin Rug

4. An “Escape Space”

When designing a classroom or a bedroom for a child with ASD,  it’s important for them to have a safe place where they can go to relax when they are feeling overwhelmed or need somewhere quiet, because they can be especially sensitive to loud noises.

1. Jungle Wallpaper // 2. Woodlands Wallpaper // 3. Banana Leaves Wallpaper // 4. Egg Pod // 5. Rattan Hanging Chair // 6. Woven Hanging Chair // 7. Gold Striped Tee-Pee // 8. Spotted Tee-Pee// 9. Black & White Striped

 

This blog post was made during an internship with Paula Ables Interiors.

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