Friday, February 27, 2009

Friendship House Autism Center plans announced

Muted lighting, soft colors and quiet plumbing — what sounds like interior options for a spa actually will be a carefully calibrated environment for autistic children.

“A lot of children with autism have issues with hypersensitivity, whether it’s a light flicker or the swish of a flushed toilet,” said architect Brian Doran, who conducted research and consulted behavior therapists for a modern vision in designing Friendship House’s $1.4 million Northeast Regional Autism Center expansion.

Friendship House officials on Thursday announced the 14,000-square-foot project, expected to begin in March, with a display of architectural renderings and a short tour of the proposed site, a former warehouse at Friendship House’s Maple Street offices.

Mr. Doran, with the Scran�ton design firm Hemmler & Camayd, also is the father of a mildly autistic child.

“We’re trying to create the right environment for therapists to execute their work,” he said.

Friendship House’s existing autistic program treats 60 children 2 to 21 years old at a building two blocks away on Derby Avenue. The expansion will move the program to Maple Street after the project’s expected completion in October.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, autism is a condition in a group of developmental disorders characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication problems and limited activities or interests. It is estimated three to six children of every 1,000 will have autism, and boys are four times more likely to have autism than girls, the institute said.

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