Empathetic by Design: An Inclusive, Research-Based Process for Designing Schools for Children with Autism
Designing for children with autism and other special needs requires that designers be attentive to both existing research and user needs. In this article, Bethany DeLine, Bethany Friedow, and Brian Giebink describe how the design of a new school from Spero Academy, a K-6 school for children with autism and other special needs in Minneapolis, MN, was influenced by current research on both sensory-sensitive and neuro-typical design theories and focus groups with educators at the school. The article highlights five key aspects of the design that are targeted at the needs of the student population, including the entry sequence, sensory zoning, lighting, color palette, and furnishings, equipment and building materials. The theoretical basis for these strategies is also shared.