Design to Get Social Support for Parents/Caregivers of Children with Autism
My research focuses on creating design work to support parents of Autistic children in the U.S. These works create opportunities to connect families, communities, and the public, aiming to promote awareness for Autism and get social support for parents of caregivers, which contributes to an improvement in the care of their Autistic children.
I found my design interest in non-design practice: being an RBT (Registered Behavior Technician) who delivers behavior analysis services to Autistic children in their homes and the clinic. I felt the need for design when I worked closely with someone physically or mentally different from myself, which motivated me to learn more and do something for them using skills I gained from my undergraduate education and professional training.
I started by designing tools for my little clients in response to needs expressed by their parents. I developed a set of special-looking tableware to improve their eating habits by providing tactile, visual, and auditory sensory stimulations and an interactive teaching tool to help them learn to communicate with posture. These designs aim not only to help children to learn but also to help therapists like me to work and cooperate better with the child and their family by making active learning possible instead of passively training.
As I further conducted my research, I changed my research population from Autistic children to the parents of Autistic children after I realized that parents are the primary caregivers who play an essential role in Autistic children’s development. Many of them are under more significant stress compared to parents of children with typical growth due to (but not limited to) the lack of social support.
The previous research also leads me to the social model of disability and to be aware of the potential harm the medical system may bring to people by its absolute definition of disability and neglecting social factors. I see design as a gentle way to dissolve this issue because it would create tools to help instead of interfering or judging.
I am currently working on researching Autism communities on social media, collecting artifacts or media from parents that carry their family stories, presenting them through interactive web design, and letting more people learn about their life experiences to promote public acceptance and gain more attention and support from the public.
Parents of Autistic Children, Social Media Research, Community Design, Web Design, Social Model of Disability