Design for Autistic Children

Personal Research | Work as a Team | My Work: Research, Design, and Fabrication | 2020 – now

My Personal Story

   About three years ago, I watched a TV show called Atypical; this was about an autistic teenager who wanted to live like his typical peers. Until then, I knew little about autism and the problems of autistic people. However, the way this show presented and introduced it gave me an idea to help autistic children and use the skills and abilities that I have earned throughout my bachelor’s years and totally in my life.

 In my gap years, besides working in an architectural office and gaining various experiences, I found my favorite subject, which was fascinating to me, Interactive Design. After putting my thoughts and ideas together, I found my purpose, which was working and helping the children through my major; so, I came up with an idea: 

“Researching and designing innovative interactive tangible games to combine senses and emotions of special needs children especially autistic children who have some difficulties which make them feel different or limited to grow and learn appropriately.” 

  About one year ago in July 2020, I started to work on my idea about human emotions and responsive architecture and environments was thinking about implementing my new and unknown idea to help autistic Children through my major while I knew little about medical knowledge so I got confused but totally excited to make my dreams come true At first step considerable research needed to be done about assistive devices for ASD children consequently visited several Autism Centers and some private rehabilitation centers to find out more about the problems and limitations in curing and helping autistic children in Iran Moreover by visiting these centers and interviewing staff more effective Ideas came up.

AUTISM and its relation to ARCHITECTURE

(Responsive Environments)

   Spaces play an essential role in the treatment of diseases, such as autism. Interaction with space can help improve and prevent the progression of these diseases. According to preliminary studies, the spaces with which autistic children interact are mainly under the direct supervision of educators and occupational therapists. These conditions result in high dependence on educators and less interaction of children with each other and finally with the environment. However, what if the responsive environment meets most of the needs of children and occupational therapists, and the space, as an essential element with the occupational therapists, could help improve children’s health and education?

1. Reducing the involvement of occupational therapists and coaches. 

2. Contrary to the past, instructions should be transferred to the child in better and more attractive conditions (with animation, movement of walls, light, color, sound, media)

3. Due to the less involvement of occupational therapists, children’s interactions to do the tasks will increase, and teamwork will be formed.

4. Utilizing the predefined communication with objects to enhance and substitute it with real-world communications as a simulation with peers, teachers, and the real world. 

Research Process

   In order to get more acquainted with the potentials and existing problems of autism and Isfahan medical clinics, a list of common problems was prepared during several sessions and interviews with occupational therapists and centers’ staff. For example, the lack of adequate and high-quality medical facilities, lack of up-to-date equipment, lack of allocation of most facilities for the child’s need, and lack of knowledge about new and high-tech treatment methods were the main problems of medical centers in Isfahan. Also, some centers were desperately looking to redesign the spaces in a modern way, which were not implemented due to the designers’ lack of sufficient knowledge and budget in this regard.

   After assessing and observing the feasibility of medical centers, it was time to identify the major problems of children with autism in Isfahan in (level) one and two and at the age of 3 to 10 years (preschool age). Thirty families of these children who were referred to medical centers participated in this study. The study, which included Doctor Nezamoddin’s sensory questionnaire used by occupational therapists, was made available to parents of children online. They were asked to complete the questionnaire honestly according to their child’s behavior during the day. The chart below shows the prioritization of the main problems of these 30 children. Problems are prioritized respectively:



3.Motor skills


5.Eye contact 


Idea No 01 - Accompany

   The children play in group games based on the ability of 1,2,3 or 4 children and their auditory, visual, tactile, and movement senses are activated in them.

Idea No 02 - Shadow Game

   The child moves with the help of his shadow to collect points and finally completes his shadow. So, finally he/she can play with his/her shadow.

Idea No 03 -Pull and Push Painting

   With the help of guidelines, the child completes each shaped like a three-dimensional puzzle and receives a prize.

Idea No 04 -Play with Me

   A small-scale game is played in groups or individually, and its effect can be seen on a different scale on the front wall.

Idea No 05 – Game Story

   The stages of growth of a tree are taught with the help of the child moving in the direction of transverse, longitude, and height.

Final Prototypes

Idea No 06 – Music Wheel

   By rotating the circular modules, the assigned color is played by the sound, and after completing the wall painting, a piece of music is played in general.

Make a pattern with texture
– Tactile

– Communication

– Visionary

– Concentration

First Prototype

   In this prototype, a questionnaire collected by Dr. Meysam Nezamoddini was distributed among families and parents with autistic children in levels i and ii and under 10. After collecting and analyzing data from the questionnaires, some sketches were drawn and presented based on prioritized problems. This installation consists of a vertical or horizontal porous panel that has about 200 silicon spherical modules. Using silicon material is due to its flexibility, washable properties, transparency, and safeness for children. In this prototype, we tried to prioritize the problems of 30 autistic children:
1- respectively
2- auditory
3- visionary
4- tactile
Using this device is as easy as ABC, and it begins with a simple level and ends with more complex levels considering childrens’ abilities. In the first stage, the game displays guidance of intended colors.

Idea No 07 – Sound of Painting

   By playing each tile from Bells, color appears in the color bucket and the pen is assigned to the same color. Then the child can first play his favorite color and draw with a pen.

Color Mining                                                                                         Singing to Paint

– Visionary                                                                                               – Speech therapy

– Searching / selection                                                                             – Auditory

– Movement                                                                                             – Visionary

– Fine motor skill

Second Prototype

   In this design, an online questionnaire collected by Dr. Meysam Nezamodini was distributed among families with level i and ii ASD under-school-age children. After collecting data and analyzing the answers, problems were extracted by driven prioritized scores, and then some ideas and sketches were drawn. This prototype consists of a xylophone, a bucket of paint, LCD monitor. Using the RanGo- is first by engaging the child to the device and then making eye contact with it. After that, with a mentor’s help or imitating, children start working and playing with bells. Simultaneously by playing the bells, the mentor holds the button connected to the microphone module and RGB LEDs; therefore, the colors of buckets of paint change by playing every single tile of the bells. After using the device, children would understand that for changing and choosing colors, they should use their fingers and hold the related button to modify their fine motor skills and subsequently their visual and auditory and memorizing ability.

Final Prototype (Ran-Go)

This modified prototype includes eight levels from simple to complicated, and every level would improve different skills.
Levels this installation consists of:
– A microphone that receives frequencies of the xylophone
– A speaker that announces the name of colors and notes
– Seven LED lights for seven notes
– Xylophone
– Touching screen
– One guidance light
The basic flow chart is defined below, but in the final version, eight levels are defined that every level enhances different skills like visual memory, auditory memory, fine motor skills, concentration, attention, and verbal skills in the expansion level.

Current step

   Currently, the team is at a level to redesign and apply some minor changes to achieve a better design that is more functional and helpful for the team’s purpose. Further steps are defining the process of games, their levels and testing them with target children.

Next steps

   Final construction: fabricating the installation/game/ in a larger/real scale / Test and evaluation: determining a specific group of children with special needs / Result: having a conclusion and collecting the final result