AUTISM + DESIGN:
Environments for Children with Autism and
As the mother of a child with autism, Carol Krawczyk has
looked for ways to help her child engage with the world and
other people. She found that the everyday environment is largely
overlooked as a means for children with autism to grow and
learn. In order to better research her hypothesis, she has
undertaken doctoral work in this area at City University of New
York’s Graduate Center (CUNY). So, in addition to her personal
experience in this area, she has been building a foundation of
research in this area by interviewing children with autism,
together with their parents, about the environments the children
prefer and abhor, helping to inform families with autism as well
as designers about preferred places and opportunities for
environmental modification. In this research, Krawczyk has found
that every day environments do contribute to the well-being of
Through Research-Based Design, she works with the children,
their families and therapists to create environments that are
engaging and inviting for the whole family while meeting the
specific physical, sensory, developmental and spiritual needs of
At Research-Based Design, we use research findings – from the
large body of academic research -- to work towards the larger
goal of designing for people of all abilities and needs in
public places, such as ways in which schoolyard gardens can
contribute to social skill development as well as physical and
emotional fitness and children’s environments can be modified to
take into consideration sensory dysfunctional issues.
Examples of Krawczyk’s research and public presentations in
“Learning from children with
autistic behaviors,” presentation given to the Environmental
Design Research Association (EDRA) Conference, May 30, 2009,
Kansas City, Missouri.
“Outdoor environments for
children with autistic characteristics,” presentation given
to the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA)
Conference, January 15, 2009, Tucson, Arizona.
“Play Opportunities for
Children with Special Needs,” presentation given to Temple
University Horticultural Therapy Class, November 29, 2006.
“Gardens for Children with
Special Needs,” Annual Meeting of the Pennsylvania-Delaware
Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA),
April 23, 2004.
“Healing Gardens and Designs
for Special Needs,” Mid-Atlantic Region of the American
Horticultural Therapy Association Annual Conference,
Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, Maryland, October 12, 2001.
“Landscape and Sculpture”
Poster and Model Presentation on Sensory Gardens for St.
Edmond’s Home for Children, for Design for the 21st Century
II: An International Conference on Universal Design,
Providence, Rhode Island, June 14 – 18, 2000.