02. Neurodiversity.space

The design challenge for this project was to rehab the interior space of an existing building in the neighborhood of Franklinton, Ohio to address needs of the local population.


After preliminary exploration and several field observations to local elementary schools I choose to explore the topic of Neurodiversity and the needs of the neurodivergent community in this neighborhood. Completed in 2018.   

Building: Engine House #6 at 540 West Broad Street. [1]


"Neurodiversity is the diversity of human brains and minds - the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species." [2]

                                                         - Nick Walker

The Basics

Neurodiversity includes differences such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder (which is a term that now includes Asperger's), learning differences and Tourette Syndrome. 


The rate of diagnosis of  ADHD and ASD in particular is growing in the U.S. and people in this community can often struggle at school and at home. Without proper treatment, which can include support groups, exercise, diet, skill building, medication and counseling, these diagnoses can have lasting negative effects on an individual's life. [5] 


of all children in U.S. aged 4-17 diagnosed with ADHD by 2011. [3] That is about 8 million children. 


Million Americans with Autism Spectrum Disorder. [4]

Poverty and Neglect


Households below poverty level in Franklinton, Ohio. [6]

With a majority of the population living near or below the poverty level, my hypothesis was that living in poverty would exacerbate the issues and symptoms many students with these diagnoses face.

During several field observations at Avondale Elementary located in Franklinton, I encountered students and first hand accounts from teachers about how poverty and neglect at home made school difficult if not impossible for these students. 

Bill*, one of the special education teacher's at Avondale, provided this insight about a non-verbal autistic student: "Dylan's* parents do not enforce a bed-time and he is allowed to stay up as late as he would like playing games on a tablet. By the time he arrives to school he is so tired he falls asleep. If we try to wake him up for lunch it can lead to meltdowns."

(*Names changed for privacy)


Left: Main entrance at Avondale Elementary School. Right: Special needs classroom at Avondale. 

Beyond Academic Assistance 

Not only were some of the Avondale students not having basic needs met at home, I found articles online that indicated help beyond academic assistance was needed for students with a diagnosis.  

"Special-education departments tend to focus on helping students with learning disabilities. But kids with Asperger's often don't need academic support. They need help navigating social interactions." [7]


                                                                     - Amy Mackin, parent


What is available in schools does not address all of the students' social, emotional and cognitive needs. In Franklinton neurodivergent students face the challenges of poverty, lack of resources and sometimes neglect and abuse on top of a diagnosis, exacerbating issues and symptoms. 

After-school and weekend programs to supplement daytime schooling, assist parents with the intensive care and help their child may need and educate and bring awareness to society. 

Design Proposal

SOAR, a center for neurodiversity, is a place that offers tailored educational and social opportunities for neurodivergent students (K-12) in the under-served neighborhood of Franklinton, Ohio. SOAR is a positive, optimistic space that encourages and teaches students from a strength-based perspective to lift the barriers to success and thrive. SOAR assists parents in caring for and educating their child to help alleviate caregiver fatigue. Training is offered for parents, families and the community-at-large to help everyone better understand neurodiversity. 

Teach students about their brain and behavioral strategies.

Individual projects, pace and environment.

Art, dance and sensory therapy, Sensory products, Distraction reduced spaces.

Community of peers and mentors.

Awareness and education for parents, teachers and society.

[8]  [9]  [10]  [11]  [12]

Designing a Space to Facilitate Education and Community

The main entrance is a two-story atrium. The focal point is a vibrant sculptural element made of colored birds to encourage all students to soar towards success. 

A Front Room Render + Line Work - 1 - PN

Rendering of the community space for middle school and high school students. Click image to zoom. 

A Movement Room Render + Line Work - 1 -

Dance and Sensory Therapy Room. Click image to zoom. 

Quiet nook area for elementary aged children. In the foreground is a Sensory Pea Pod that can apply pressure to many areas of the body for those with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). Click image to zoom.

Yng Kid Rm CLOSE UP 1 - PNG -.png
Yng Kid Rm CLOSE UP 2 - PNG -.png

Project workspace for elementary aged children. Blinds can be utilized to control lighting. Direct access to the outdoor play area is also available from this space. Click image to zoom.

Floor Plans and Section Cuts

Please click thumbnails to see larger image. 

Floor Plan Level 1 - for website.jpg

Floor Plan Level 1

Floor Plan Level 2 - for website.jpg

Floor Plan Level 2

Construction Doc Sheets - Sheet - A - 05

Section Cuts