Please upgrade your browser

For the best experience, you should upgrade your browser. Visit our accessibility page to view a list of supported browsers along with links to download the latest version.

Katie Gaudion

PhD Work

A Designer's Approach: Exploring How Autistic Adults with Additional Learning disabilities Experience their Home Environment

Autistic adults with limited speech and additional learning disabilities are people whose perceptions and interactions with their environment are unique, but whose experiences are under-explored in design research. This PhD by Practice investigates how people with autism experience their home environment through a collaboration with the autism charity Kingwood Trust, which gave the designer extensive access to a community of autistic adults that it supports.

The PhD reflects upon a neurotypical designer’s approach to working with autistic adults to investigate their relationship with the environment. It identifies and develops collaborative design tools for autistic adults, their support staff and family members to be involved. The PhD presents three design studies that explore a person’s interaction with three environmental contexts of the home: garden, everyday objects and interiors. A strengths-based, rather than a deficit-based, approach is adopted, which draws upon an autistic person’s sensory preferences, special interests and action capabilities, to unravel what discomfort and delight might mean for an autistic person; this approach is translated into three design solutions to enhance their experience at home.

By working beyond the boundaries of a neurotypical culture, the PhD bridges the autistic and neurotypical worlds of experience, and draws upon what the mainstream design field can learn from designing with autistic people with additional learning disabilities. It also provides insights into the subjective experiences of people who have very different ways of seeing, doing and being in the environment. 

Supervisors: Professor Ashley Hall and Professor Jeremy Myerson

MPhil work

Occupational Textiles (in homage to Friedrich Froebel, Maria Montessori and the field of occupational therapy.)

An innovative range of non-age or gender-specific textile toys to stimulate the primary senses of touch, sound, smell and sight, and encourage movement and play for adults and children with sensory processing dysfunctions.

Each toy capitalises on the somatic nature of textiles, which transforms toys of the past in terms of scale, pattern, shape, texture, sound, weight, temperature and colour, to accentuate and heighten the sensorial, kinetic, haptic and bodily experience it perpetuates for each individual.


  • Katie Gaudion
  • PhD


    School of Design


    Innovation Design Engineering, 2012–2015

  • MPhil


    School of Design


    Textiles, 2010–2012

  • Katie's work celebrates nuerodiversity. Using intuitive and empathic design approaches, Katie’s specialist interest lies in exploring ways to involve adults and children with learning disabilities and neurological developmental conditions in the design process.

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons) Textile Design & Business Studies, University of Brighton, 2002; Foundation Diploma in Art & Design, Salisbury College, 1998
  • Experience

  • Photographer, Tereza Stehlikova, Prague, 2009; Designer and project developer, John Baldessari, 2009; Designer, Spruth Magers Gallery, London, 2009; Product designer and developer, Golden Horn Sensory House, Solund, 2009; Designer, Studio Roosegaarde, Rotterdam, 2008
  • Exhibitions

  • The Fifth Global Plastic Electronics Conference, Maritim Hotel and Conference Center, Dresden, 2009; The International Snoezelen Symposium, Golden Horn, Solund, 2009; Safe to Touch, HUB: National Centre for Craft & Design, Lincolnshire, 2009; Diverse, Royal College of Art, London, 2009
  • Conferences

  • Keynote, 'Aesthetics and children with special needs', The Oslo School of Architecture and Design, 2015; Keynote, International Public Design Symposium, Korea Craft and Design Foundation, Korea, 2014; 'Bridging the empathy gap between neurotypical designers and autistic adults', India, 2014; With L. Pellicano, 'Designing with autistic adults', International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR), Atlanta, 2013; With L. Pellicano, 'Green Spaces, outdoor environments for adults with autism', Autism-Europe International Congress, Budapest, 2013; With C. Lowe, 'Design and Autism', The National Autistic Society Conference, Belfast, 2012; Keynote: Kent Challenging Behaviour Network Conference, Kent, September 2012; Touch Thinking Symposium, Northumbria University, London, July 2012; 'Feather and Toothbrush', Inspiring Matters Conference, London, April 2012; Snoezelen Conference, Paris, October 2011; Include Conference, London, April 2011; Delft University of Technology, Holland, March 2011; Keynote: The International Snoezelen Association Congress, Alabama, USA, October 2010; The Cumulus 2010 Conference, Shanghai, China, September 2010; DARE Summer School, Beijing, China, September 2010; The Plastic Electronics Conference, Germany, November 2009; The International Snoezelen Symposium, Denmark, October 2009
  • Publications

  • Gaudion, K, Pellicano, L, Hall, A & Myerson, J. (2015) A designer’s approach: How can autistic adults with learning disabilities be involved in the design process?', CoDesign; Gaudion, K., Pellicano, L, Hall, A & Myerson, J. (2014) Bridging the empathy gap between neurotypical designers and autistic adults, in: Proceedings of the Design for Sustainable Well Being and Empowerment Conference; Gaudion, K., Lowe, C. (2014). A Design for Life. Learning Disability, London: Pavilion; Gaudion, K., Lowe, C., McGinley, C. (2014) ‘Designing living environments with adults with autism’, Tizard Learning Disability Review, 19(2), 63–72; Gaudion, K. (2013) Designing Everyday Activities, Living Environments for Adults with Autism, London: The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Royal College of Art; Gaudion, K., & McGinley, C. (2012) ‘Landscape Design: Outdoor environments for adults with autism’, World Health Design, pp. 66–71; Gaudion, K., & McGinley, C. (2012) Green Spaces; Outdoor environments for adults with autism, London: The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, The Royal College of Art; Brand, A. & Gaudion, K. (2011) Ready Steady Make, a guide to making sensory props, London: The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Royal College of Art; Brand, A. & Gaudion, K. (2012) Exploring Sensory Preferences, living environments for adults for autism, London: The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Royal College of Art