Theme ‘sightlines’

‘Sightlines’ are a theme under the chapters ‘garden / outside area’ and ‘architectural spaces’. (See The recommendations.)

In most of what we have termed ‘the core literature’, sightlines feature prominently.

Sightlines can be viewed both ways. From the perspective of the person on the spectrum we call it orientation or oversight which is of vital importance in architecture for autism. Here, however, we use ‘sightlines’ in the sense of the physical possibilities for supervision of children, pupils, residents, patients etcetera. Usually safety is the main object, next to opportunities for observation in a treatment- or training-setting.

A clear and important example is supervision by adults in order to prevent exclusion and bullying in schools.

Here is an example in which treatment and safety are both involved. It’s translated from Een wankele wereld (A shaky world) in which a long-stay home for people with severe autism is depicted.
One of the residents – ‘Boris’ – has a history of repeated ‘meltdowns’, which were manifested, among other things, in aggression towards others and himself and both his own and other peoples belongings. In most of these instances his carers understood his motives, in some they didn’t, even when mounting discomfort on his part was evident.

His therapist relates the following incident:
“In the workshop a pallet is in a place where it doesn’t belong and Boris takes a fall because of it. He hurts his shinbone which is bleeding and really must hurt. To him such a fall is an impossibility. He denies it and continues as if nothing has happened. Later he may hit himself or brake one of his things to punish himself. He would, for instance, delete a game from his computer which he really likes, something which would sadden him very much.

Something like this can only be avoided by watching him very closely and so, to begin with, observe that he has bumped into this pallet. Together we go through this whole incident, step by step: what has happened and what may follow and we agree he won’t punish himself, by beating himself or in any other way. He needs to be taken seriously in his body. So I inspect his injury, we decide it needs a band aide, and we proceed to actually administering one. (…) This kind of incident happens regularly. You can’t refer back to a similar incident: you have to figure this out and act upon it every single time.”

This example underscores the importance of continuous observation for some, and by extension the necessity of sightlines.

*Een wankele wereld

Schrameijer, Flip, Een wankele wereld. In het Workhome, een woon- werkgemeenschap voor mensen met autisme. Doorwerth, Dr. Leo Kannerhuis, 2007.