Autism is a widespread mental condition that requires special treatment and handling, this project was directed to enhance the Autistic children's communication skills with their surrounding environment and with their supervisors. An interactive signage system as well as a set of communication cards were designed for this purpose where the design solution was built on and supported by an extensive research, observations, interviews, and tests
Autism is a mental condition that diagnoese a child from early childhood before the age of three. The characteristics of autism include lack of social interaction, difficulty in communication or using language and having the stereotyped behavior. They may experience over or under sensitivity to sounds, touches, tastes, smells, light or colours and they interact very well with visuals.
Day Care Clinic for Autism-DCCA- is a govermental clinic established in Abbasiya (the mental health hospital in Cairo) at the clinic they help treating kids with autism aging between 1-13 years old through therapy sessions rather than treating them with medications.
After analyzing the existing signs it was concluded that the images are not clear for the kids and have too many distracting elements. Therefore, based on the doctors' brief and the research conducted it was agreed that the kids need to be challenged through the new signage system but also equipped so they would not get lost between the rooms.
The seven rooms
At the clinic the kids shift between 7 rooms for their therapy sessions. Therefore, visual door signs were designed to help the kids know the activity/ therapy session taken in each room and they’d reach to the rooms independently.
In order to enhance their communication skills since they don’t know how to communicate their needs; communication cards were designed known as (PECS-Picture Exchange Communication System). Each card would have an icon that a kid would try to communicate their needs whether it’s food, toys or an action.
They enhance the kid's concentration and sense by playing games for the brain.
All the kids come together in order to help them enhance their communication with kids of their age.
Because the autistic kids' senses are weak this session tries to enhance their senses.
Through this therapy doctors try to enhace the kids' speech.
Doctors try to teach them how to eat on their own and hold water cups on their own.
This part of their day is important because they tend to enhance their gross motor skills.
They try to teach kids how to go to the toilet on their own and how to use it appropriately.
Design elements research
Florescent colors irritate autistic kids, on the other hand; pale colors are better for their eyes. Red and yellow colors are better not to be used because they can get angry from those two colors; however, pink is their favorite color.
Patterns can be a distraction to them according to how it is used.
Challenges in signage for autistic children
The images are not clear for the children, There are too many distracting elements, The signs are not friendly enough for the children's experience, and they are repetitive on the doors.
Design process outcome
The outcome is a signage system for the autistic children and a set of communication cards.
Dr. Persis the head/ founder of the clinic explained that they want to connect a tracking line to the signage. The tracking line is a line found on the floor, it is connected from one room to the other because autistic kids are known to get unbalanced in large areas so this tracking line will keep the kids moving straight.
Autistic kids are characterized by great difficulty in communicating. Therefore; they need a tool that will help them easily communicate their needs whether it’s food, toys, an action, etc... However, the developed cards are created to enhance their communication skills. These cards are known as PECS- Picture Exchange Communication System in which a kid requests an item with the icon on the card and then receives the actual item. These cards won’t only be used by the kids at the clinic but also by autistic kids outside the clinic.
The kids get introduced to a small number of cards but first they must be taught by their supervisor how to select the right image; this is achieved by showing the kids the image on the card and the real element.
At this level the kids know how to use the cards, thus the number of cards will be doubled. The kids have the cards inside a booklet to have an easy access to the cards for exchanges.
At this level the kids' supervisor asks the kids what they see or want in a form of questions in order for the kids to answer the question with a card.
The final cards were designed in a way that would be easily carried around by the kids so they can communicate easily to their supervisors. Also the cards were designed to make it easy for the kids to form complete sentences of what they want or feel. A package for the cards was designed in the form of a box so that parents can put the cards in it after their kids use them. The back of the box has brief information about the communication cards and how to use them.