Planning for the Unseen and Unheard: the child with ASD

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


“Children are a kind of indicator species.
If we can build a successful city for children,
we will have a successful city for all people.”

Enrique Peñalosa (former mayor of Bogotá)

Should society be judged by how they treat their weakest members, the concept of the Child Friendly City offers more than ample scope for critiquing the genuine health and inclusivity of our urban environments. If we accept childhood as a crucial human development phase that demands inclusive and welcoming places for play, exploration and growth, many cities today are becoming increasingly barren habitats, arguably full of nothing but empty childhoods. (Raven-Ellison 2015) With children today less able to roam and explore our streets than those of yesteryear, (Bird 2007) the situation is now developing where our young are becoming increasingly socially and spatially excluded from our supposedly shared Built Environment. That progressively restrictive urban realm is particularly pronounced for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, for whom our cities can be disorientating, difficult and even frightening places.

As a profession we have a responsibility to provide inclusive built environments that do not preclude the presence of the most vulnerable in society, among them those with ASD. Accordingly this paper seeks to introduce emerging research into the current challenges facing these young urban stakeholders before discussing how planning processes and design interventions might make our cities more accessible to those with ASD.


Bird, W. (2007) Natural Thinking, Sandy, Bedfordshire: RSPB.

Raven-Ellison, D. (2015) “London’s Empty Childhoods” in London Essays – Green Spaces, Issue 3 – found at: accessed 9th May 2016.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 07 Sep 2016
EventUK-Ireland Planning Research Conference - School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom
Duration: 06 Sep 201607 Sep 2016


ConferenceUK-Ireland Planning Research Conference
CountryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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