As schools for students with autism move from makeshift or retrofitted quarters to new buildings tailored to their specific programs, architects and educators focus on what makes the best places for learning.
Back in 1975, when the Eden Institute was founded in a New Jersey church basement to serve children with autism, the disorder was considered relatively rare, then estimated at a nationwide rate of 1 in 10,000 births. But by the time Eden settled into its new facility last year, the prevalence of autism, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control, had risen exponentially to 1 in 88.
With increased diagnoses, autism-specific schools multiplied. The umbrella definition, as autism expert John Brown points out, altered the 'size and nature of the pool' to include not only profoundly autistic and severely incapacitated people requiring hospitalization, but also higher-functioning groups in need of special learning environments.