Title: Sensory Wellbeing for Adolescents with Developmental Disorders: Creating (and testing) a Sensory Wellbeing Hub with a Sensthetic approach
Research Team: Upali Nanda, PhD, Assoc. AIA, EDAC, ACHE; Giyoung Park, PhD, AIA, WELL AP, LEED AP BD+C, Fitwel Ambassador; Lisa Adams, NCIDQ, LEED AP; Jonathan Essary; and Melissa Hoelting, WELL AP
Institution: HKS, Inc.
Lane Tech College Prep High School is a public high school, located in north Chicago, which has a special education program for diverse learners, aged 14 to 21 years old, with developmental disabilities. Built within an existing classroom, the sensory wellbeing hub is a simple freestanding and adaptable structure built using a metal scaffolding to mount activities—ranging from meditative to high-energy—for a wide range of sensory needs. This study aimed to create (and evaluate) an adaptable, intuitive, and open-source space design as a sensory wellbeing hub for diverse learners with developmental disabilities who might have abnormal sensory processing.
Students and staff reported the hub served therapeutic and preventive functions. Students’ wellbeing-in-school marginally improved between the two semesters after installation, implying a steady increase in efficacy. Use of interventions was found to be related to incidence of ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) and sensory profiles (thresholds for sensitivity and registration). Compression, quietness, tactility, and proprioceptive sensory affordances were found to be key qualities. Dynamic modular systems that change and evolve with a range of sensory affordances can allow the school to replace underused or damaged items and cater to the range of sensory needs among diverse learners. The non-proprietary and open-source delivery of the design provides other schools the ability to replicate the sensory wellbeing hub, as well as the scalable modular approach to installation for any number of design features, local spaces, and budgets.