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A Chapter of the American Institute of Architects 

Serving Michigan's Jackson, Lenawee, Livingston, Macomb, and Washtenaw Counties
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The Orchid, the Dandelion, & The Slide: Sensory Design as a Means to Address Autism, Neurodiversity and Inclusion

  • Wednesday, December 09, 2020
  • 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
  • Zoom webinar


Registration is closed

AIA Huron Valley is pleased to present Sean Ahlquist, Associate Professor at the University of Michigan in the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and author recently published in the AIA HV "Awards 2021" issue: The Orchid, the Dandelion, & The Slide: Sensory Design as a Means to Address Autism, Neurodiversity and Inclusion

The talk will describe his research in designing, engineering and prototyping sensory-rich environments for children with autism spectrum disorder and other cognitive and physical differences. The work connects the personal experiences in having an autistic non-verbal daughter with his experimentation with materials and structures. It sheds light on the critical need for architecture to address the agency of conforming individuals in the search for inclusion.

 1.0 LU|HSW

Please use the link below to register:

 1.0 LU|HSW

Learning objectives:

1.       How can objects, spaces, and social environments operate to form a means of communication, a language, for those with autism spectrum disorder? 

2.      Architecture offers the potential for discord or harmony.  For those with autism, moments of sensory seeking experiences can achieve a calming effect through the experience, ritualistic, of simple strong stimulations.  What are architectural opportunities for this?  (going up and down the slide or stairs, swinging, rocking, rubbing textures, etc.)

3.      "Every design move inserts an unavoidable bias".  Discuss the social distinctions between typical, abled, diverse, and differently abled persons.  Consider how architecture presents opportunities where autism traits may arise within social situations created by the environment. 

4.      Discuss disability theory – the notion of an identity, viewed from a deficit perspective, where it is used to define a minority by a shared defect, focused on an eradication of the defect.  Consider architecture's focus on technology assistance as a classifier of a defect in physical ability, such as wheelchairs. 

5.      Consider social orchids as a "highly sensitive person or HSP" who have a neurobiological sensitivity where the quality of behavior outcomes is contingent upon the environment.  Consider the dandelion, who is viable in almost all circumstances except the extreme.  Consider how the pandemic has reversed the opportunities for the dandelion and the orchid and how the orchid may be in less discord than the dandelion.  How does architecture afford opportunities for discord or harmony for the orchid and the dandelion? 

6.      "To make the tactile speak" is the grounds for use of textiles as the primary architectural medium.  Consider how the elasticity of a knitted textile presents opportunities for communication with those with autism.  Consider how this architecture medium can affect the experience and social behavior. 

7.      Review the sensory playscapes created by a flexible architecture medium and the links to social behavior, along with the software, hardware, and material platform to explore these prototypes. 

Do not register on the AIAHV website - please register directly using the eventbrite link above to receive CE credit.  (we cannot turn off the registration option on our website or the event won't be made public - sorry for any confusion) 

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