Do you or someone you know suffer from a mental illness? During National Public Health Week recently, we were reminded that most Americans do. Architects are rethinking how their building designs influence the health and well-being of people and are developing designs for mental health as well as for safety and physical wellness. By applying therapeutic design concepts to the built environment, it is possible to improve mental health of occupants. We can create communities that contribute to the prevention and control of an illness labeled as the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to National Institute of Mental Health.
The combined third/fourth grade classroom at Seattle’s Academy for Precision Learning (APL) is humming with activity. An inclusion-based private school created in 2007 to meet the needs of autistic children in grades K-12, APL boasts classrooms that accommodate a spectrum of behaviors and learning styles. Most children are seated at desks; one small group of students is working together around a table, while another child with noise-canceling headphones is sitting at the back of the room with an aide beside her. The teacher is giving a lecture about the Battle of the Alamo; children are wiggling and talking quietly to themselves. One child occasionally shouts out random words, but only a handful of the classroom’s mix of autistic and neurotypical students seem to notice.
IN AMERICA in 1970 one child in 14,000 was reckoned to be autistic. The current estimate is one in 68—or one in 42 among boys. Similarly high numbers can be found in other rich countries: a study in South Korea found that one in 38 children was affected. Autism is a brain condition associated with poor social skills. It has a wide spectrum of symptoms, from obsessive behaviour to hypersensitivity to sound, light or other sensory stimulation, the severity of which ranges from mild to life-blighting. The range of consequences is also wide. At one end, the autism of a computer scientist may be barely noticeable; at the other, a quarter of autistic children do not speak.
Apple has released a new pair of videos on its YouTube channel highlighting the effect that technology has on people with disabilities. The video, called “Dillan’s Voice,” features a teenager named Dillan Barmache, a 16-year-old kid who is autistic, and shows how he uses Apple products to express his thoughts.
I first realized it the day my father asked me which number came between 3 and 5.
He had been living alone for a while in another state and I only saw him a few times a year, but while speaking to him on the phone it became more evident after he would repeatedly ask how to write a check and no longer knew where the grocery store was located. Months past and it was clear that he was not safe living alone. He was not able to manage daily situations, such as an ATM, finding milk in a store, or remembering where he was.
Alzheimer’s Australia Victoria has launched a new app providing carers with ideas to make their home more accessible for people living with dementia.
Problem: many autistic kids are super sensitive to the sight, sound, and feel of their environment. So when New York-Presbyterian decided to build an early intervention center for autistic children, they needed it designed with their needs in mind.
One in 68 American children have been diagnosed with autism, according to the Center for Disease Control. Early intervention is the most effective treatment, requiring dedicated centers, but autistic children’s hypersensitivity to their surroundings makes designing such facilities difficult.
The sense of smell is closely tied to memory, a fact that designers made use of when they developed Ode, a fragrance disperser designed to help people with dementia remember to eat. People with dementia often begin to eat less and suffer from weight loss, which can trigger other health problems. The high quality food aromas released by Ode are designed to subtly reawaken an interest in food and eating, as well as remind people to eat at specific times of the day. There are three different scents in each Ode and each scent can be programmed to come on at a specific time of day. The product is still going through trials and is not yet for sale, but initial trials suggest that the product might help people living with dementia develop healthier eating behaviors, like eating meals more regularly and eating more food at each sitting.
A surprising new historical analysis suggests that a pioneering doctor was examining people with autism before the Civil War.
Dr. Birgit Dietz explains the background thoughts in the development of the age and dementia-sensitive washbasin, which she designed together with HEWI. She is a visiting lecturer in the Hospital and Health Sector Building department of Munich’s Technical University and has her own architectural firm in Bamberg.