Architecture Student Designs City for Autistic Individuals

Elizabeth Decker, landscape architecture student at Kansas State University, has designed an urban plan that would accommodate individuals living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), such as her brother. Decker wants her plan to inspire others to do their part in accommodating the needs of those with ASD, and help them feel more comfortable in our communities. Decker interviewed several individuals on the Autism spectrum, as well as focused on the needs of her brother, in order to create an efficient plan. Decker based her structure within Nashville, Tennessee, but she hopes this plan would be inspirational to officials of all major cities to make efforts to incorporate an environment that is welcoming for those with ASD.

The National Institute for Health has identified 6 areas of need for Autistic individuals: vocational training, life skills, mental and physical health support, employment, public transportation, and affordable housing. Therefore, Decker designed a space within a city to accommodate these needs. She states, “Cities can become more usable for individuals with Autism when these six needs are met. The toolkit provides an initial list of implications within these six needs that cities can follow in order to meet the needs for adults with Autism.”

Decker’s plan includes green spaces, which provide sensory relief to those who are easily overwhelmed. She also included a farmer’s market, and other outlets for healthy food, as many individuals with Autism have seen great benefits from following a healthy regime. Decker also found it to be essential to incorporate vocational job opportunities, in areas where individuals with ASD can truly thrive and bring great value to the company. The most important feature of the city is the connection of Autism-related services.

”My project views cities from a larger perspective and demonstrates that cities lack connection of services for Autism,” Decker states. She continues, “It is not enough to view a city within a few blocks and suggest placing a building or park. Without seeing the vision of an inclusive city as a whole, the design falls short of successfully connecting the needs of adults with autism. The inclusive city not only provides opportunity for individuals with autism, but also adds another level of health and success to dynamic urban environments for everyone.”

Although it is impossible to design a new city from scratch, creating environments and opportunities to better include individuals with ASD is very possible. Decker looked at what already existed in Nashville, and then considered the most important elements that could be incorporated to make the best improvements. With 1 in 68 American children currently being diagnosed with Autism, the execution of some of these environmental changes would be incredibly beneficial to not just the lives of those with Autism, but to entire communities.

The ICare4Autism International Conference will be discussing the road to opportunity for individuals with ASD, including technology being used for Autism treatments, and the Global Autism Workforce Initiative. This Autism conference will take place on June 30th to July 2nd in NYC! Speakers include Michele McKeone, Founder and CEO of Autism Expressed. Ms. McKeone will be presenting a workshop which demonstrates how her program provides young adults with Autism the digital and marketable skills they will need to gain employment opportunities. To attend this conference, please select tickets here.  Early bird ticket specials are still available! This is an Autism conference that you will not want to miss!

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