Designed by the Pupils for the Pupils: an Autism-Friendly School

Keith McAllister, Sean Sloan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
1047 Downloads (Pure)


There is growing interest in promoting autism-friendly environments, especially in a school setting. Findings to date have generally advocated an accepted reductionist or generalist approach when providing an autism-friendly built environment. However, previous studies, while very well intentioned, have rarely involved those with autism spectrum condition (ASC) to comment on and then instruct designers on what, for them, constitutes an autism-friendly learning environment. If going to be truly inclusive, the authors contend that those who are most knowledgeable about ASC, those with ASC, should, whenever possible, be given the opportunity to comment on the design of our shared built environment. Hence this article first introduces some of the challenges faced by those with ASC in trying to cope with their surroundings, before proceeding to outline the development of a simple school design ‘jigsaw’ kit that helped pupils with ASC to communicate ideas for their perfect school. Used in four design workshops, secondary school aged pupils (aged 13 to 18) with ASC imparted their likes, dislikes and what was most important to them within the school environment. This facilitated comparison with current autism-friendly guidelines and provides a valuable insight into the mind of the secondary pupil with ASC. It is hoped that by increasing awareness and then including those with ASC in describing what might constitute an autism-friendly learning environment, it will help facilitate greater inclusion of the child with ASC into mainstream education and society at large.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-357
Number of pages28
JournalBritish Journal of Special Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2016


  • Architecture
  • Autism Spectrum Condition
  • Children
  • Inclusion
  • Participtory Design


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