Designing Buildings for Children With Autism


Can we design a building that makes life easier for people with autism? A place where autistic children can learn more easily and develop with less stress?

According to architect Magda Mostafa, the answer is yes. And creating these kinds of places, she says, can reveal important lessons about how people are impacted by architecture. Based in Cairo, Mostafa was approached to help design a school for children with autism and other special needs. Her involvement with that project, the Advance Special Needs Education Center, led her to develop the Autism ASPECTSS Design Index, a unique tool that assesses architectural environments for people with autism. It was developed with the input of teachers, parents, and caregivers and is now being applied to other projects internationally.

Universal Design (UD) is an approach to design that increases the potential for developing a better quality of life for a wide range of individuals. It is a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation (Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012). It creates products, systems, and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation.