A Place in Public Space: Designing an Autism-Friendly Experience for Adults in Palmer Park

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In 2023, the CDC reported that approximately 1 in 36 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Prevalence rates have nearly doubled every decade since the CDC began tracking this data in 2000. When these children come of age and enter adulthood, they face new milestones and challenges such as working, living away from the family home, and navigating the world with more autonomy. Design professions —including architecture, interior design, and landscape architecture— have progressively incorporated considerations for ASD into their spaces. Adult-specific, autism-friendly design guidelines existing today have honed in on improving workplace, home, and therapeutic environments. There is a noticeable gap in addressing landscapes made for the social and leisure aspects of life. To address this gap, this research design thesis focuses on implementing design interventions in Landover, MD’s Palmer Park Community Center outdoors space to create an autism-friendly space for adults seeking comfortable recreation opportunities.