Sensory design for autism

Make sense of your environment

I recently had the pleasure of visiting St. Martin’s Special School in Derby to meet up with Headmaster Gary Dodds and discuss the importance of sensory awareness when designing environments for children and young adults with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Mr Dodds kindly offered to show me around the school and I was completely overwhelmed by the level of dedication and commitment that goes into making the school an inspirational learning environment with a strong emphasis on the children and their individual needs.

On this occasion, I was particularly interested in discussing The Galaxy Suite – a specialist unit within the school that is specifically for children with an ASD. I was keen to find out whether the physical environment has an impact on the well being of the children in the school.

Mr Dodds maintained that the environment can have a huge impact on a child with Sensory Sensitivity; also known as Sensory Processing Disorder or Sensory Integration Difficulty. It is highly likely that a child with an ASD is likely to experience this, which can have an overwhelming affect on their life, affecting one or more of the seven senses. Their senses can be either over-developed (hyper-sensitive) or under-developed (hyposensitive) which can result in feelings of anxiety, stress & occasionally, physical pain. Both can have an impact on how a child handles different environments.
For example, Mr Dodds explained that: “Sound affects the children in different ways”, stating that: “This was taken into consideration when designing the school with the inclusion of sound absorbing ceiling panels, carpets where possible and vertical wood panelling in areas to absorb the sound”.

It was highlighted during our discussion that Autism is an incredibly complex condition with a number of characteristics that are apparent across the spectrum. Each and every child is affected differently, dependent on the individual. Therefore, the importance of knowledgeable interior design is of paramount importance to the well being of a child with an ASD – in any environment.

I want to say a big thank you to Mr Dodds for agreeing to speak with me as this is a subject area I adore and I find incredibly rewarding. I am continually developing my knowledge and skills and have a few training dates and conferences scheduled over the coming months. I’ll keep you posted…

This post doesn’t even scratch the surface of the importance and complexity of this subject. For further information on how I can assist you, please get in touch.

Just Live, Kelly x

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