Theme ‘location’

‘Location’ is the only theme in the chapter ‘location’ and is concerned with the best location for a home, apartment, school or other building utilized by people on the spectrum.(See the recommendations). Location may involve decisions by school boards or other authorities or by families and individuals looking for homes and schools.

The location of a house, school, treatment or long-stay home should conform to the individual needs of those involved. Three broad areas can be identified in this respect: the visual and physical structure, over- or under-sensitive senses and social possibilities and limitations. Each of these areas corresponds with a number of autistic and ego-limitations. (See autism characteristics.) The rule of thumb is to choose for ordinary environments unless there are convincing reasons to choose otherwise. The Dr. Leo Kannerhuis has as its credo ‘as normal as possible and as special as necessary’.

Location preferences can be specified somewhat by life-stage, because children, teenagers and adults generally have varying needs. Children need room to play and their own territory, teenagers should have the opportunity to experiment socially and to participate in society. Adults participate in society to widely varying degrees; from hardly at all to virtually or temporarily completely. All these differences are manifested in the demands posed on the physical environment of homes and other buildings.

The extreme of the autistic spectrum poses the highest demands on the physical environment and consequently constrains choices for the location of living, working and school arrangements; think of long-stay homes in quiet, safe, low-stimulus and ‘green’ neighborhoods with clear access to day-care and recreation facilities, easily reachable by public transportation.

The same often applies to treatment homes, although in that case the future possibilities of the residents are important considerations and the facility can be located in the noise and bustle of the big city. Here, opportunities to practice interactions with strangers should be in line with the expected level of future social participation.

For families with one or more members on the spectrum, and for independent living as well, the general idea is a quiet and friendly, small scale neighborhood with facilities such as shops and public transport at walking distance.

As emphasized above, location depends on individual needs, making for a great variety of appropriate locations. In some cases the bustle of the city is appropriate, while in others only an exceedingly isolated far-away place will do.

Finally, one should be aware that for people on the spectrum the capacities to adapt to the social and physical environment are limited. When these limits are reached, adaptations of the environment become necessary. The physical environment of buildings and homes can be adapted – this is the raison d’etre for this website – but beyond their perimeters such influence is all but impossible and there is no choice but to aim for the most favorable circumstances. Additional considerations are therefore to be found in demarcations between one and the other and in dealing with dilemmas between too much and not enough confrontation with society at large.