Core literature and design goals

Below we present seven articles provisionally considered to constitute the ‘core literature’ on design for people on the autistic spectrum. We hasten to add such a choice is more or less arbitrary.
The most important principles which are shared by the great majority of these diverse authors can be summarized in the 15 design parameters articulated by Khare & Mullick (out of 18) which overlap with the principles formulated in at least four of the other six articles. About no less than 8 of these 15 principles is unanimity. (The authors’ names are added behind the principle in question. Since we started with Khare & Mullick, they underwrite all of them.)

  1. Provide Physical Structure (All)
  2. Maximize Visual Structure (All)
  3. Provide Visual Instructions (Mostafa, Scott, Whitehurst, Beaver, Ahrentzen & Steele)
  4. Maximize Future Independence (Mostafa, Scott, Humphreys, Ahrentzen & Steele)
  5. Offer Generous Space Standards (Mostafa, Whitehurst, Beaver, Humphreys, Ahrentzen & Steele)
  6. Provide Withdrawal Spaces (All)
  7. Maximize Safety (Mostafa, Scott, Beaver, Humphreys, Ahrentzen & Steele)
  8. Maximize Comprehension (All)
  9. Maximize Accessibility (All)
  10. Provide extra space for autism-specific assistance (Mostafa, Scott, Whitehurst, Ahrentzen & Steele)
  11. Maximize Durability and Maintenance (Scott, Whitehurst, Beaver, Ahrentzen & Steele)
  12. Minimize Sensory Distractions (All)
  13. Provide Sensory Integration (All)
  14. Provide Flexibility (Scott, Whitehurst, Beaver, Ahrentzen & Steele)
  15. Provide Monitoring for Assessment and Planning (All)

The formulation of these principles shows that almost all the articles concern children, with a strong emphasis on education. Ahrentzen & Steele are concerned with (assisted) independent living and this is an exception.
When authors don’t mention a particular principle it does not imply they don’t underwrite it: it often means they do, but don’t emphasize it in this particular article.
The articles – which are all quite easily found elsewhere on the Internet – are:

Khare, Rachna & Abir Mullick, ‘Incorporating the behavioral dimension in designing Inclusive learning environment for autism’, In: Archnet-IJAR, International Journal of Architectural Research, 3(2009) 3 (Nov) 45-64. (Download the article here. In her book Ragna Khare elaborates.)

Ahrentzen, Sherry and Kim, Steele , Advancing Full Spectrum Housing: Designing for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Tempe, AZ: Arizona Board of Regents, 2010. (Download here. These authors also wrote a book in 2015 which will be discussed here in due course.)

Beaver, Christopher,
Designing environments for children and adults with asd, lecture at Autism Safari 2006, 2nd world autism congress & exhibition, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Cape Town, 2006.
Considered a companion piece to his: ‘Breaking the Mould’, In: Communication 37(2004) 3(September) 40. (The National Autistic Society)

Humphreys, Simon, ‘Architecture: Taking autism into account or not?’, 2008.

Mostafa, Magda, ‘An Architecture for Autism‘: Concepts of design intervention for the autistic user’, In: Archnet-IJAR, International Journal of Architectural Research 2(2008) 1 (March) 189-211.

Scott, Iain, ‘Designing learning spaces for children on the autism spectrum’, In: GAP, Good Autism Practice, 10 (2009) 1, 36-51.

Whitehurst, T. ‘The impact of building design on children with autistic spectrum disorders’, Good Autism Practice, 7 (2006) 1, 31–38 (PDF.)


Khare, Rachna, Designing Inclusive Educational Spaces for Autism, Institute for Human Centered Design, Boston, 2010.
At Home with Autism. Designing Housing for the Spectrum. See here.
Breaking the Mold
See the publication on this page.
Later republished under another title: Humphreys, S ‘Autism & Architecture’. In: Link. Autism-Europe, 55(June)2011, p 9-13, 2011 (org 2008) PDF