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This week marks Neurodiversity Celebration Week, a global initiative aimed at increasing awareness, appreciating the unique abilities, and smashing stereotypes around neurological variances across workplaces, educational institutions, and universities.

Though a general term, neurodiversity includes Dyslexia, DCD (Dyspraxia), Dyscalculia, Autism and ADHD. The week aims to raise awareness for these diagnosis as well as celebrating inclusivity and individuality.

Designing for neurodiversity

Neurodiversity is believed to affect 15 – 20 per cent of the population, making the need to design inclusive spaces paramount. Inclusivity was at the heart of one of our recently completed projects, Eaton College, located in Mt Louisa, Townsville.

The school is an independent college ranging from prep to Year 10 specifically catering for the educational needs and learning outcomes of students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Project lead John Hay, worked alongside our team on the masterplan school across two years to bring the significant vision to life.

Colleen Doble, Head of Eaton College, said the team’s design considerations promoted inclusivity and positive learning for students in the school.

“Their ability to translate our vision into a tangible, functional space that fosters learning, growth and inclusivity is truly commendable,” said Colleen.

Practice Fellow, Paul Trotter and Project Leader, John Hay worked closely with the Fulton Trotter team alongside Director, Ryan Loveday guiding the project.

Ryan said the consultations with stakeholders throughout the project played an important role in the design’s execution.

“We held a range of discussions with Eaton College to identify the particular needs of the project, particularly designing with diversity in mind,” he said.

“These consultations were crucial and allowed us to then consciously design to engage students in the classroom.”

Through consultations, considered design and purpose-built construction, the project aim was to ensure young people learn in a safe, caring environment. This was crafted through the creation of General Learning Area (GLA) Pods, a central playground and an Administration Centre. These amenities were complimented with low lighting and a soft, natural colour palette to support sensory, social, and educational needs of students.

When designing for neurodiversity, ensuring adequate space for self-expression and freedom, particularly in classroom environments was important. We collaborated with Landscape Architect Firm, Design Instincts to create covered and outdoor play areas designed to foster self-regulation and emotional support skills. An undercover basketball half-court was also added to help students socialise, build skills and have fun, as well as promoting health and wellbeing within the school.

The GLA classrooms included a library, withdrawal area, toilet facilities and a veranda. Walkways connected the classrooms to the Administration Centre, to provide staff and students with a secure “front door” to the College, as well as maintaining social interaction areas, respite and fostering professional development for staff members.

The first cohort of students attended the school in early 2023, with 13 students currently enrolled. Student enrolments are expected to grow as the school community flourishes throughout the decades.

For more information on this inclusive project, visit the Eaton College project page here.

Neurodiversity Celebration Week commences Monday, 18 March – Sunday, 24 March.

“Their ability to translate our vision into a tangible, functional space that fosters learning, growth and inclusivity is truly commendable,”

Colleen Doble,
Head of Eaton College