Space affordances, adaptive responses and sensory integration by autistic children

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This paper presents the findings of a study on the interrelationship between space, bodily actions and the sensory integration of autistic children. In particular it addresses the role of the spatial environment in promoting the development of the sensory integration of autistic children, using J. J. Gibson’s concept of affordances, which places an emphasis on the transactional relationship between an individual body and its environment. This study examines how the body-space transaction occurs to promote sensory integration, based on a series of unobtrusive observations on spatial actions performed by autistic children during sensory integration therapy sessions. The study found multiple affordances of spaces and objects for various sensory-related actions. The child’s interaction with spaces and objects reflects the relational character of various affordances. The multiplicity and relational characteristics of affordances are manifested through the presence of the spaces and objects of possibilities, to which the child may respond through various actions. The findings suggest that the physical layout of the environment that could enhance sensory integration should be designed by considering physical spaces as a body-environment system with a multiplicity of affordances that eventually could enrich the child’s adaptive responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-47
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Design
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014


  • Adaptive Responses
  • Affordances
  • Autism
  • Multiple
  • Relational
  • Space


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