Characteristics which pose architectural demands
Since the dsm is a classification system which offers few indications for treatment or its evaluation, the Dutch center for autism, Dr. Leo Kannerhuis makes, among other things, so-called treatment-diagnoses. The point of departure for those are, among other things, two series of characteristics. One are chracteristics for autism ‘proper’, so to say, the other are so-called ego-characteristics. They can be viewed as dimensions because both types of characteristics are more or less independent: one can score high on the autism-dimension and low on the ego-dimension – and vise versa. A weaker ego is virtually always present and yet it is more or less independent from the severity of autism.
We employ this two-dimensional scheme, devised to arrive at treatment diagnoses, in another way; here it guides decisions about architectural measures.
|Autism dimension:||Ego strength-dimension|
|Limitations in social interaction:
Limitations in understanding / interpretation of nonverbal behavior:
Separately specified/added (apart from dimensions):
- The demands which are posed on buildings and their design, follow the same logic as shown above: the ‘scores’ on these dimensions run parallel to the demands on the environment.
- In the context of architecture and autism six additional terms are added to the scheme of the Kannerhuis. (Which is practical but not entirely without complications.)
- Part of the autism-dimension is ‘sensory sensitivity’ which generally co-varies with the severity of the autism. It’s importance in the context of design is hardly done justice by indicating it with only one term in this scheme. It plays a part in almost three quarters of all recommendations, and will require considerable specification to be useful in this context.
WHERE AUTISM MEETS THE DESIGNED ENVIROMENT
Architecture for autism happens (or should happen) where these characteristics meet the designed environment. This occurs, very broadly, in three overlapping domains:
In the physical and visual structure of the environment, which should be clear. Here problems stemming from Weak Central Coherence and weak Executive functioning, stand out most.
Around over- and under-sensitive senses, which call for the avoidance, muting and shielding, or any other lessening of sensory impressions, for oversensitive people. And the reverse in cases of sensory under-sensitivity. As stated above, the senses play a part in almost three quarters of all recommendations. About 20% of them are exclusively concerned with the senses.
In the social possibilities and limitations the physical environment sets. Specifically, limitations in social communication and interaction pose demands on the size and the arrangement of spaces of a building. Withdrawal spaces are almost always necessary. When people live, work or learn together in groups, the common use of spaces and facilities poses important demands on the design of a building and its spaces.
Nota bene: above each recommendation under “because” the autistic and associated characteristics are listed which are the target or the occasion of the proposed measure. The relationship between the characteristics and the measure is, however, hypothetical. Often this relationship is straightforward such as between oversensitivity to noise and noise-measures. But often it is speculative, as in the case of promoting visual clarity and Central coherence and/or ‘shifting’. The precise character of many of these relationships is still unproven and one of the long-term aims of this website is to achieve more clarity about these relationships, so that, ideally, for each measure it will be established which autistic characteristics it serves.