Design for Autism


Michael Singer Studio has been working in the field of “Autism Design” for several years on both housing for adults with autism as well as classroom design for children with autism. The Studio’s work is highly collaborative, working with researchers, specialists, non-profits, and academic institutions to develop design criteria specific to this unique group. The Studio’s work in the realm of design that serves individuals on the autism spectrum approaches the topic from a hands-on perspective of direct observation and interaction. Over several years the Studio has observed and interacted with individuals with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC, previously referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorders: ASD) of several age groups in a variety of settings. The Studio places great value in the knowledge amassed by educators, therapists, and other direct care providers and has learned a great deal from their depth of knowledge.

The Studio’s collaborative work with the MIT Media Lab set out to develop design guidelines for classrooms that serve learners on the spectrum. This design based research effort was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Extensive research, on-site visits with The Groden Center, and team collaboration revealed that design for individuals with ASC does not lend to a one-size-fits-all set of guidelines. Due to the lack of homogeneity within the ASC population the Studio ultimately defined a list of key design considerations rather than specific design guidelines. These considerations enable a design team to engage with an ASC user group in a focused manner to address a range of spatial and environmental factors from light and color to acoustics (among others). This study also developed a concept for a classroom design for children with autism that focuses on a range of flexible configurations for legibility and degrees of interaction. For more information about this project please see the project page here.

For it’s work on housing for adults with autism, Michael Singer Studio collaborated with noted experts in the field through an intensive workshop and iterative design process. This project was developed in collaboration with The Center for Discovery and was funded by the Jeffrey Cook Charitable Trust. The outcomes focused on the intersection of sustainable design with design aspects that are particular to residents on the autism spectrum. Interestingly, many sustainable building practices (such as high-rated thermal and acoustical insulation, and no VOC finishes) dovetail nicely with residents’ needs. The Studio and its collaborative team also dealt with changing state level regulations with regard to the legal definition of a Group Home, and developed a new model for shared living that meets the needs of the residents, the host institution, and the financial realities of changing state regulations. For more information about this project please see the project page here.