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BY JEFF LINK

A pilot study suggests playground equipment can provide social and emotional benefits for children with sensory disorders.

FROM THE JUNE 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Lucy Miller lost her sight when she was 16 and, in 1970, underwent one of the nation’s first corneal transplants. A procession of specialists flitted in and out of her recovery room—doctors, nurses, residents, fellows—but she recalls thinking that only the occupational therapist was interested in her as a person.

Shortly after her release from the hospital, she abandoned her plans to go to law school and headed to graduate school at Boston University to study occupational therapy. It wasn’t only the care and attention of her former occupational therapist who had led her to this decision. In the hospital, over several months when her eyes were surgically detached from her skull, she noticed her other senses had grown sharper. She wondered why, neurologically, this had happened, and was determined to find out. So, in her early twenties, still in graduate school, she embarked on a summer mentorship at the Torrance, California, clinic of Jean Ayers, the originator of a then-emerging field exploring the relationship between the sensory processing dysfunction and the behavior of children with disabilities.

Nearly half a century later, Miller, who is the clinical director of the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder just south of Denver, has become one of the nation’s preeminent scholars on sensory processing disorder (SPD). This term is used to describe difficulty with “one or more of the sensory processes that occur along the neurological pathway, from detecting stimulation to regulating the input and output, to interpreting the sensations correctly, to responding accurately, and finally, to turning the sensory input into meaningful responses,” as she explained in her 2014 book, (more…)

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BY JOHN KING, HONORARY ASLA

BEDIT_LAMfeb16_Sweetwater

A community for adults with autism shows the power of an understated landscape.

From the February 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

If Sweetwater Spectrum in Sonoma, California, had been one of her typical Bay Area projects—the visitor center of a winery, perhaps—Nancy Roche might have chosen a different aesthetic in selecting the five trees that will form a statuesque line between the lawn and the communal porch within the cluster of four spacious four-bedroom houses designed by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects. She might have gone with ornamental pear or a particularly vivid maple, something that in the autumn would shed its leaves with fiery drama.

But Sweetwater isn’t a typical project, or a typical residential enclave. It’s perhaps the nation’s first housing complex designed specifically for adults with autism living largely on their own, a population that is served best by surroundings that offer predictability and simplicity rather than potentially disruptive stimulation. So when it came time to order the high-visibility quintet, intended to form a linear canopy 40 feet high, the tree she selected was a different deciduous variety, zelkova, a relative of the American elm.

“I chose them because I like them, but also because the fall color is a more subtle rusty red,” says Nancy, who with her husband, Dave Roche, ASLA, leads Roche + Roche Landscape Architecture, a four-person firm based three miles away. “It’s more sophisticated than a (more…)

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