Chelsey King, a master's student in landscape architecture, and Katie Kingery-Page, assistant professor of landscape architecture at Kansas State University, said the biggest issue with traditional schoolyards is that they are completely open but also busy and crowded in specific areas.
"This can be too overstimulating for a person with autism," King said in a statement. "Through this research, I was able to determine that therapies and activities geared toward sensory stimulation, cognitive development, communication skills and fine and gross motor skills -- which traditionally occur in a classroom setting -- could be integrated into the schoolyard."
The schoolyard could be an inviting place for children with autism, if it provides: Clear boundaries, a variety of activities and activity level spaces, places where the child can go when overstimulated, opportunities for a variety of sensory input without being overwhelming and a variety of ways to foster communication between peers, King said.
"My main goal was to provide different opportunities for children with autism to be able to interact in their environment without being segregated from the rest of the school," King said. "I didn't want that separation to occur."
King created different signs and pictures boards to make it easier for children and teachers to communicate about the activities. She also designed a series of small hills around the central play areas so that children with autism could have a place to escape and watch the action.