Adrift in The City Without A Map – The Child with Autism

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


As a society we have a responsibility to provide an inclusive built environment. For those with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) however, the world can be a frightening, difficult and confusing place. The challenge of integrating more fully into society can be distanced by an alienating built environment. This is particularly debilitating for younger children who can find themselves detached from learning and interaction with their peers by uncomfortable surroundings. Subsequently there has been a growing interest in promoting ASD-friendly environments. With regard to individual buildings, strategies to date have generally followed a widely accepted reductionist or generalist approach. However, the authors now contend that there needs to be a greater discussion of what truly constitutes an ASD-friendly city, in conjunction with investigating what strategies best articulate a progressive approach to supporting those, and especially the young, with ASD in our built environment.
With the incidence of ASD on the rise, now is the time to take stock. In the sensorium that is the city, often overlooked and forgotten, those with ASD find themselves increasingly isolated, not just socially, but also temporally and spatially. Cast adrift and unable to navigate in the city, the child with ASD runs the risk of forever being lost. Therefore what is needed, both for city planners and those with ASD, is a map to aid navigation and steer a route through this hitherto uncharted territory. At stake is the well-being of a vulnerable and growing population in contemporary society. Hence this paper first introduces some of the challenges faced by those with ASD in trying to cope with their surroundings. It then outlines a triad of challenges to overcome when considering what truly constitutes an ASD-friendly city. The authors then highlight the need and advantage of supporting adaption in our shared inhabited landscape through providing legibility, structure, quiet and reassurance for the child with ASD.
The hope is by increasing awareness and then questioning what genuinely constitutes an ASD-friendly city, it might ultimately help facilitate greater inclusion of the child with ASD into mainstream society at large.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 08 Nov 2016
EventChild in The City Conference - University of Ghent, Ghent, Belgium
Duration: 07 Nov 201609 Nov 2016
Conference number: 8th


ConferenceChild in The City Conference


  • Architecture
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • City
  • Children
  • Design
  • Inclusion


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