Deborah Johnson WoodHope Network's
new Center for Autism
maximizes the positive effects that a building's interior shape, color and noise level can have on persons with autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.
The Center for Autism is an outpatient facility for adolescents located on Hope Network's Coral Lettinga Campus, 3361 36th Street SE.
Mike and Connie Lettinga drove from the Grand Rapids area to the east side of the state regularly to get their daughter, Coral, the special services she needed to help her with her autism
. It was the Lettinga's idea to develop a comprehensive and innovative autism center close to home.
"People with autism have under- or over-developed sensory systems that are highly reactive to colors, odors, and noise," says David Gamble, Hope Network's director of children's services. "Often this affects their balance or they have spatial issues, like not knowing the distance between themselves and the wall. That's why it's important for them to touch things and walls when they walk."
The autism center incorporates design elements to relieve some of this stress, such as, curving walls, rounded corners and pastel colors. Noise reduction materials, including acoustical ceilings and special padding under the gymnasium floor, prevent sound reverberation.
Framed pictures of children or a leaf or flower painted on the walls create simple and calming wayfinding signage.
The 12,000-square-foot former warehouse features a Model Living Unit with a bed and dresser, laundry facilities, a kitchen and bathroom.
"The Model Living Unit is where we teach clients how to make their bed, wash and dry and fold laundry, and do other things that are part of daily living," Gamble says. "I was just down there the other day and we were teaching two students how to make cookies."
There are also rooms for sensory learning, occupational therapy, psychotherapy, medical exams, speech therapy and family visitations. Outdoors is a playground, basketball court and a track.
A grand opening
on April 23 from 5 to 7 p.m. is open to the public.
Source: David Gamble, Hope Network; Craig Clark, Clark CommunicationsDeborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Development News tips can be sent to email@example.com.