Date of Submission
Bachelor of Architecture
My mother is a huge inspiration in my life. She is a special education teacher. And throughout the years she has continually expressed the dramatic increase in autistic students. When she first began, she had 4 students, she now has 28. According to the CDC, throughout the last four years the number of autistic students has risen about 8%. This brings the autism rate to 17.8% for students aged 3-17. That is about 1 in every 6 students.
The views of autism are often misconstrued just for being different. I too was guilty of this. Until the day I met Phillip. Phillip is a second-grade autistic student who has a passion for construction. As do I. I met him when I came to build a shelf for my mother’s school office, and he insisted on helping. I, as many do, had an initial thought of doubt, simply because of the student’s disability.
So, what is autism? It is a neurological development disorder and characterized as abnormalities in social interactions, sensory sensitivities, and unusual response to environmental stimulation. Due to these behavioral differences, the school kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) either go to designated schools for Autism or learn in isolation in K-12 Schools. In other words, they do not share the same learning environments with general education students. This deprives students like Phillip of the opportunities such as equal access to the educational resources, peer learning and social skills critical for our society, just for being different.
Opposed to the learning in isolation concept, inclusive pedagogy is a method that aims to create supportive learning environments and equal access to students This can be achieved via development of innovative classroom designs to address the varying needs of students.
Through research, my thesis systematically investigates environmental, spatial, emotional, psychological, and social needs of the students with ASD. My thesis also critically reviews the effectiveness of design strategies utilized in both, schools for autism and mainstream K-12 schools. Through this analysis my thesis re-established new design norms to transform the current K-12 school into “Inclusive K-12 Schools”. I strongly believe this can be a turning point for the education of ASD students.
Now it needs to be noted that this is in fact a spectrum. To address a wide range of students my design should empower educators by allowing them to reconfigure the learning environment. The flexible design features should allow flexibility in sound, light, layout, privacy, visibility, and outdoor connectivity, within the consideration of student needs. I believe the key design concepts are spatial flexibility and inspiring architectural spaces for social interaction. With this in mind, my thesis aims to design the next-generation Inclusive K-12 Schools for students like Phillip who is a student first and is autistic second.