DESIGN FOR IMPACT: STUDYING THE ROLE OF DESIGN IN SPATIAL COGNITION OF CHILDREN WITH AUTISM


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Ardekani M. S. , Şalgamcıoğlu M. E.

6th International Conference on Design4Health, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1 - 03 July 2020, vol.1, no.3, pp.29-37

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Full Text
  • Volume: 1
  • City: Amsterdam
  • Country: Netherlands
  • Page Numbers: pp.29-37

Abstract

The discussion around the impact of the built environment was first argued in the 1960s by the work of environmental psychologists Stringers (1970) and Canter (1969), who put forward a common approach toward architecture and psychology. Their efforts raised the awareness of the design potential to affect diverse aspects of a human being. Regarding this matter, the state of mind and how an individual would perceive the built environment is the main focus of this paper. Additionally, the discussion within the field of the autism-friendly environment which Recently gained increasing prominence and encouraged us to examine how an individual with autism responds to spatial features.

In accordance with Downs and Stea’s (1973) opinion, the information of surrounding is obtained from an ‘uncertain, changing and unpredictable source’ and it’s been collected ‘via a series of imperfect sensory modalities’. But, when it comes to autism, this indication is arguable. Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition along with sensory difficulties that causes a distinct way of perception and processing style of the visual elements which leads to the proposition of the ‘Weak Central Coherence’ theory (Frith 1989). In this paper, we tried to shed a light on this theory in the architectural context by assessing how individuals with autism interact with two different spaces, one consists of less spatial details and the other one with more locally integrated details. We asked children with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) to explore those spaces in VR

and then we evaluated their post- exploration experience by asking them to configure the same space in a physical model on a smaller scale. The main enquiry was to discover whether the different spatial features would affect their spatial perception, and if it did, to understand what the impacts were. As a concluding remark, the design of a space for High-Functioning children with autism is suggested with fewer details and more globally integrated features, expressing the whole picture rather than the segregated visual elements.

Keywords: high-functioning autism, spatial cognition, spatial perception, cognitive map, space syntax, visual perception.