Design For Autism : Part 4

More thoughts from Julia Fain and Friends

The second of two articles from our guest blogger, designer and mother Julia Fain.

Hello again! In my last article, I shared a little about how my family prepares for different activities. Some of our daily outings take us to public spaces like the grocery store, restaurants, and museums. Here is a bit about what I have experienced with our son, Bryce.

In regard to shopping, Bryce does best if he has tasks to complete, such as looking for foods, pushing the cart, etc. Stores with lots of branding are difficult. When he sees a DVD, or fruit snacks with a super hero, or a new toy he can become instantly passionate and emotional about said product. I know end caps are necessary for marketers but as a mom I am not a fan. Shopping stores like Trader Joes are infinitely easier to shop in due to the smaller store size and lack of branded packaging.

Relating to restaurants, our family almost always eats at fast food or order up front style. They tend to be casual and it isn’t noticeable when Bryce needs to hop up and down while he eats. He can not make it through a sit down restaurant without hiding under the booth. I believe from all the noise and smells and having to sit still. We try to work on this with coloring sheets and breaks (walks outside).

I realize that my experience is very much singular to our family. So I asked a few friends (with children on the autism spectrum) for feedback and they had wonderful ideas.

From my friend Sharon: “…I talk about how the sound of the room overwhelms Caleb; how people’s voices echo if the ceilings are really high, how employees interact with us, if there’s music playing in a foyer…we never ever take an elevator anywhere, so we’re very fond of carpeted stairwells because the carpet absorbs the noise of clanking steps and squeaky doors.” (Sharons blog: she writes about autism and her family there.)

From my friend Grace: “…every kid with autism is different! For us too, our major challenge is often loud noises. Interactive play is enjoyed but not if it requires working with other children. For us, drawing is a great way to interact with an exhibit. Our local art museum has a room for children and Elijah loves it, there’s freedom to move around the different centers at will (or skip the ones he doesn’t feel comfortable with), and there’s also a place to try out the same types of art currently on exhibit. (Grace’s blog is here:

Multiple friends mentioned their kids disliking automatic hand dryers and toilets. I most definitely agree. If an automatic hand dryer needs to be used, at least give a towel option! And pick driers that aren’t incredibly loud. Also mentioned by my friends to watch for and plan around: crowds, noise level of exhibits, temperature, sounds.

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Design Issues, Professional Development

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