A class project on Color, Materials and Trends.  After some exploratory research, I narrowed down my design statement to: How can we integrate academic learning into sensory tools to develop an engaging classroom experience for children with Autism / ADHD?


Design for Education, Design for Children on the Spectrum, Research, User Testing, Sensory Design


Classroom Project




How can we integrate academic learning into sensory tools to develop an engaging classroom experience for children with Autism / ADHD?

Up to 95% of autistic children have difficulties regulating their sensory system, which is often referred to as sensory processing disorder.
Sensory tools, or fidgets, can help relieve the resulting stress and improve focus for autistic children as they attempt to learn in a busy classroom environment.


How classroom experience fits on Maslow's hierarchy of human needs

Education in a classroom satisfies a number of basic human needs. Children learn to identify with others and develop friendships with their peers, developing a sense of belonging and feeling loved. 

Their self-esteem needs are satisfied as they develop their ability to learn and become more confident in taking responsibility. 

"The world needs all kinds of minds"

Dr. Temple Grandin - speaker and author on both autism and animal behaviour. She is one of the first individuals on the autism spectrum to document the insights gained from her personal experience of autism.

Her work and talks were a great inspiration for me to frame this project.


Common characteristics of Autism

This project specifically focused on the characteristics of 'Attention to detail' and 'Visual and systematic thinkers'. 


Learning tools for "Animals and Habitats"

Focusing on the characteristics such as attention to detail and visual thinking to develop sensory tools with different complexities of patterns. 


Simplifying natural patterns and converting them from 2D into 3D objects for tactility.

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Coral puzzle

2-piece puzzles 

A line of 2-piece sensory puzzles, for scaffolded learning among children on the spectrum with varied needs and abilities. A wide range of topics can be covered by a line of such puzzles, prompting children to match colors, patterns, textures. 

Solo Play

In order to enable solo play and engagement, the pieces light up once they are put together to match correctly. 



3D printed prototypes verified pattern complexity and the levels of engagement. 



Different age groups interacted differently with the puzzles. the 4 year old in the video was able to put together the two pieces but didn't have a sense of pattern-matching in mind. The 6 year old interacted with pattern layer of the design and was more conscious about matching that. I did some informal testing with my peers who always grabbed the more complicated looking pieces such as the glacier inspired puzzle. 

Proposal for testing and manufacturing 

For testing, the next steps would be to prototype the four artifacts in elastomers of different elasticities. The table here represents the Shore Hardness Scale ranges from very soft and flexible to semi-rigid plastics with almost no flexibility at all. Testing four different points here would help define the material specification that works best for sensory stimulation and how different hardnesses could be used to soothe children in different states of mind / moods.  

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Soft Bubbles (typical softness of a mouse pad) 

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Medium Hard Iceberg (Typical hardness of a Smartwatch band) 

Medium Soft Tiger puzzle (Typical softness of a bottle nipple) 

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Hard Tree bark (Typical hardness of a plastic toy block) 

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