Creative design thinking approach to support the complex learning environment of the classroom for autistic children and their teachers

DS 124: Visual Proceedings of the 25th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2023)

Year: 2023
Editor: Buck, Lyndon; Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik
Author: Elmarakbi, Nesrin; Pearson, Amy; McIntyre ,John
Series: E&PDE
Institution: University of Sunderland, United Kingdom


This study presents a case study of autistic children, their teachers, and teaching assistants at Marine Park primary school in the UK. There is a gap in social communication between teachers and autistic children, which can lead to frustration for the children and significantly hinder the learning process. This study applied qualitative research to collect and analyse data (such as observations, interviews, and photos of the artwork produced by the autistic children) in the complex classroom setting to improve the quality of practice, focusing on the adaptation of teaching styles to support needed of the pupils. The study integrated the three key research elements of design thinking, participatory design, and art therapy to develop innovative 2D/3D toolkits, which present and explain tasks in a manner that is more compatible with the learning style of autistic children. The toolkits aimed to break down lesson plans into more readily comprehensible components and translate tasks and worksheets into an immersive 2D/3D learning experience, employing a variety of visual aids. The toolkits employed appropriate imagery, textures, creative thinking, etc. to bring the lesson to life in a way which allows autistic children to actively engage with the material at hand, whilst also ensuring that the visual and tactile experience was not overwhelming to the pupils. The results of this study confirmed that this learning approach could improve memory, sensory processing, concentration, problem-solving skills, and well-being for autistic children.

Keywords: social communication, well-being, sensory processing, problem- solving skills, memory, concentration, autistic children, teachers, design thinking, participatory design, and art therapy.


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