The work he’s referring to is Social Sensory Architectures, an ongoing research project Sean leads that fuses advanced technology, textile design, engineering and architecture to develop sensorially-rich environments for children with ASD.
The project was born in 2014 when Sean, a rare architectural breed who creates textile structures using computational design and material systems, saw an opportunity to connect with his then five-year-old daughter who relies heavily on touch to interact with and understand the world around her.
“Researching the area of human behaviour was critical in facing the challenges with Ara and her autism; trying to understand her multi-faceted, nuanced and ingenious forms of communication and how that varies so greatly with our conventional understanding of parenting and the neuro-typical child.
“It required abandoning my own intuition of what it means to be a parent. Doing this work was initially an avenue into learning about autism and Ara’s specific needs, and ultimately became means to connect with others – parents, practitioners, educators, advocates and scientists – all delving into the challenges facing individuals with autism.
An Associate Professor at the University of Michigan – Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Sean attributes the depth of his explorations to the multi-disciplinary span of collaborators he’s aligned with throughout the research; including researchers in kinesiology and psychiatry, and a range of Ara’s therapists and teachers - among others.