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Environments for Children with Autism and Developmental Delays

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 the children.

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 the child.

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 this area:

  • “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.


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