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Shelley Woods


The contents of this research paper focus on the impact of flexible design approaches within the physical learning environment (PLE) on adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). An emphasis is placed on the spectrum aspect of this disorder throughout the text; as existing literature generally presents design solutions intent on making spaces easier to adapt to, rather than creating a space that adapts to the users' varying and changing needs. The objective of this research is to study flexible design elements identified through a review of relevant literature. The study will measure their positive impact (quantitative survey) to determine how designers can utilize flexibility more effectively to elicit desired behaviours and assist specific functions (support learning, socialization, independence, a variety of needs/ learning styles, and overall comfort/ well-being). Findings gathered through additional qualitative research (open-end survey questions and follow-up interviews) fill the gaps in the existing literature by connecting broad approaches and specific elements with practical applications for interior designers. This study successfully links flexibility and growth in adults with autism; in turn, validating the need for such design approaches. Using results, I have been able to devise a “Revised Flexible Design Criteria for Autism-Friendly Spaces” along with five key implications for developing future learning spaces capable of supporting the variability of individual manifestations of ASD. The need for additional research has been highlighted to examine the relationship between socialization in adults with ASD and the built environment as well as explore solutions that can be used along with flexible approaches to enhance the overall environment for adults with autism (colour, finishes, textures, etc,).


Faculty of Animation, Arts & Design (FAAD)

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


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