My aim for my Final Graduation project was to redesign a piece of furniture for primary school children who are on the autism spectrum and who may have sensory difficulties in processing large amounts of auditory stimuli; to help promote oceanic sustainability and preservation, in accordance with the United Nations Sustainable Design Goals #3 & #14 recycled/remanufactured plastic collected from the ocean was used.”
To achieve this, I analysed a specific target user to explore the different factors which may cause autistic individuals to feel uncomfortable whilst at school thereby affecting their educational development and well-being. Aspects such as colour, smell, touch and hearing were found to influence this user group and so sensory design elements seemed imperative to accomplishing this goal by moderating external stimuli.
Furthermore, I researched and analysed specific examples of remanufactured plastic materials/products to determine a sufficient alternative towards the more conventional choices of plastic made furniture, with the additional aim of helping to reduce the amount of plastic waste in our oceans.
The context of my Graduation Project is based in part on the positive contributing factor of sustainability in contemporary modern design practices which can help to minimise the inherent injustice that surrounds the loss of marine life due to plastic pollution. However, on a more personal note, the main reason was to explore the nature of autism in design and to see how design can help autistic people like me.
I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age 11, a form of Autism that had, and continues to, affect my day-to-day life. It is predominately my own experiences that have helped to inform my user-focused study, as both the nature of the subject matter and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has made it difficult to collect more diverse primary research.
My past personal experience with autism has not been pleasant, I remember struggling with many aspects of the environment surrounding me whilst at primary school and felt that no one understood my particular issues or preferences. While I now understand my condition better and how to manage it, I believe many children may also be struggling with their surroundings, as I did, without knowing how best to manage their environment.
As such, my primary motivation, fuelled by an empathetic kinship, is to provide a means by which children on the autistic spectrum can moderate their immediate surroundings to better control the varieties of stimuli which they receive from their environment; as well as to provide an incentive for mainstream primary schools to better understand the needs of children on the autistic spectrum with the goal to provide a truly equal educational experience for all.
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