Post Occupancy Evaluation: A Day Program Center for Adults with Developmental Disabilities

Presented by: Nam-Kyu Park, Kijeong Jeon

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2015), about one in six people in the U.S. have one or more developmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and intellectual disabilities. Autism spectrum disorder is the fastest-growing developmental disability (CDC, 2015). Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is known as complex developmental disabilities and is characterized by impairment in communication skills, deficit in social interactions, and repetitive patterns of behaviors (NIMH, 2015). People with ASD also have different perceptual sensory processing, thus they are highly sensitive to the environment (Iarocci & McDonald, 2006). Considering special environmental factors in order to accommodate specific sensory needs for adults with ASD and other developmental disabilities, a day program center was designed in the northwest. Furthermore, the center was designed by adapting an evidence-based design approach. About six months after the center opened in January 2015, the POE study was conducted to investigate the impact of the purposefully designed sensory environment on the behaviors of adults with ASD and other developmental disabilities. Data for this study were collected over a period of seven weeks using mixed methods. Methods included architectural documentations; clients’ profile assessments; direct observations of the clients’ behaviors; and in-depth interviews with clients’ care providers. Data collected by these various methods were analyzed to establish potential correlations between architectural and sensory features and ensuing clients’ behaviors. Findings from this study show overall, clients’ care providers spoke favorably of the new space as a day program for adults with ASD and other developmental disabilities. They said it was aesthetically pleasing, functional, and comfortable, and were very satisfied with the quality of lighting and acoustics. While the care providers were not satisfied with the overall size of the center, the free flow type of the space layout was working very well for clients with the challenging behaviors. The activity room with neutral paint colors and carpeted floor was one of the favorite spaces of the clients with the most difficult behaviors. Based on the results of this study, design recommendations for both clients with developmental disabilities and their care providers will be discussed and the detailed evidence-based design approach to this project will be presented.


  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2015). Retrieved from
  • Iarocci, G. & McDonald, J. (2006). Sensory Integration and the Perceptual Experience of Persons with Autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36(1), 77-90.
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2015). What is autism-spectrum-disorder? Retrieved from
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