Living with autism is full of challenges that others may not notice or even be aware of. It is commonly believed that an individual's home is the one place to go to find strength, support, comfort, and encouragement. However, this is not always the case as a new culprit has emerged within residences worldwide that is causing havoc. Strangely enough, the agent that is making numerous autistics sick in their living environment. People with autism have heightened sensibilities ranging from acute hearing to tactile aversions to various fabrics and textures. In some instances, the use of certain types of cleaning products may cause skin irritations, rashes, and abrasions. Additionally, some parents report removing tags from new items of clothing for their autistic children prior to wear due to potential harm to skin. While this is a very serious problem for people on the autism spectrum, it is even more confounding for family members and those living in the same quarters. There is no need for despair, as help apparently is on the way.
Seminole State College in Sanford, Florida launched a pilot course focusing on the design issues for people with autism. The first group of students to participate in the class recognized the importance of providing a functional environment specific to those on the autism spectrum. The course emphasizes functionality, as well as having aesthetically pleasing decors aimed to calm and relax. Special attention is given to fabrics and materials used in furnishings, appliances, and bedding accessories. Moreover, careful consideration is given to art and home decorations that are warm and inviting - yet visually non- threatening. Color selection is critical as many individuals on the autism spectrum find certain colors disturbing and overwhelming.
Neutral colors are generally more acceptable within the autism community, than bold vivid colors that may be more suited for individual tastes. The final piece of the appeals puzzle centers on flooring, including designs and patterns. For some mysterious reason some patterns are offensive to some, not all, people with autism. Viewing certain patterns may cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and other physical manifestations. Choosing between hard wood and carpet goes beyond personal preference when designing living arrangements for autistics. Tactile tolerance levels and the ability to navigate various textures are factors worthy of serious concern. Not only must interior designers demonstrate excellent taste in aesthetics, but also master the functional element of residential design.
When working with people with autism it is critical to bear in mind the need for routine and familiarity. With that in mind, attempt to design residential units that are user friendly by selecting easy to clean counter surfaces and cook top areas. In addition, appliances that can be activated through use of a smart phone are attractive features for all of us, however perhaps even more so for autistics. The reasons for this varies, but primarily the predictability factor of using technology repeatedly is comforting for people on the spectrum. Having multiple household items connected to a smart phone supports ease of usage and promotes greater independence.