Evidence-based design: Documenting a research experiment in a school environment with children with autism spectrum disorder

Irish, Julie
Irish, Julie Elaine
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Interior Design

Purpose Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder affecting around 1:59 children. Among other characteristics, children with ASD can be unduly sensitive to elements in the built environment, such as noise or light. Despite this knowledge, to date there has been little evidence-based experimental research investigating how the environment affects them. The purpose of this paper is to conduct an experiment in a school environment with children with ASD and document the process as a model that other researchers could apply to similar studies.

Design/methodology/approach The study focused on whether the application of wayfinding aids (colored doors, colored shapes on the floor and signage) in a school corridor could help children with ASD navigate to a given destination, but the process could be applied to other variables at other study sites. The study documents the approval and consent process, describes setting up the experiment, assigning controlled and uncontrolled variables, selecting and recruiting participants, and running the experiment.

Findings The study concludes by reviewing the key lessons learned from the process of conducting the experiment. Study logistics were challenging to gain approval and set up and run the experiment; collaboration with school district personnel was essential to meet the aims of the study; and recruiting sufficient numbers of participants with ASD who were not familiar with the study site was challenging.

Originality/value By describing key steps in the process of conducting a research experiment with children with ASD, the study provides a model that other researchers could follow.


This accepted article is published as Irish, J. (2019), "Evidence-based design", Archnet-IJAR, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 25-38. Doi: 10.1108/ARCH-12-2018-0029. Posted with permission.