Breaking the cycle

The central aim of this project is to create an inclusive school setting with and for adolescents with autism during their unstructured leisure time at school, thus increasing the quality and quantity of social participation with their peers. School leisure time is where ‘it happens’ for most adolescents: at the schoolyard, in the cafeteria, in the hallway. During their breaks in school, teenagers meet, have friendships, fall in love. This break time is most important to learn the skills that also prepare them for later life. Thus, adolescents need to make the necessary (social) strides to become emotionally and socially competent. Most adolescents with autism miss this important learning opportunity, because they have difficulties joining their peers during their leisure time at school.

In this project, we will focus on creating and implementing an inclusive environment, by analysing and adapting the physical (built), social, and cultural environment at schools outside the classroom. New means of unobtrusive data collection (e.g., sensory data from Radio Frequency Identification Devices) will be utilised to measure social participation of secondary school students with autism in a pre- and post-test measures design, establishing the effectiveness of a newly developed intervention. High school students with autism and alumni will be involved in the development and implementation of this project from start to finish. This project involves a multidisciplinary collaboration (psychology, computer science, architecture) combining scientists (Leiden, Delft and Groningen University), professional organisations for autism (INTER-PSY & Rivierduinen), and patient associations (NVA).