Building better spaces for people with autism, one colour at a time


Helping staff and pupils navigate corridors through colour coding

A new residential and educational unit in Gloucestershire has colour coding at the heart of its design in a bid to reduce anxiety levels and complement the support it provides for autistic pupils.

Orbis Abbey Rose in Tewkesbury is now open following extensive refurbishment work, overseen by The IAD Company, with the interior specially designed to help reduce behavioural issues and anxiety for service users.

The design has made the school and residential buildings more manageable through simplifying the layout with colour-coded walls and skirting boards, clearly separating one area from the next.

Rebecca Lewis-Chapman, director at IAD Company, explained: “One of the challenges we faced was how to use colour to create low-arousal environments throughout a large building with corridors and lots of rooms.

“This was a primary concern given the complex needs of the children whose anxieties can be amplified as a result of environmental triggers.

So, addressing this issue was a must. Now, the site is really easy to navigate, with dedicated colour-coded zones, which has ultimately made it a much-more-comfortable place to be.”

Building better spaces for people with autism, one colour at a time

Closed by its former owners, Cambian Group, in April last year, Wales-based Orbis Education and Care purchased and remodelled the site, reducing its residential capacity from 42 to 30 rooms, and increasing its learning space to 10 classrooms for children with complex needs associated with autism.

The IAD Company has also worked on differentiating between the residential and school environments to make it easier for pupils to separate their learning spaces from their living areas, and in turn gain a sense of control, structure and a clear understanding of their surroundings and their specific functions.

Co-ordinated window dressings, furniture fabrics, and artwork have also been selected to support this innovative style of wayfinding, with initial feedback from Orbis staff proving positive.

Mike Currier, chief executive of Orbis Education and Care, said: “Children with autism often need a structured environment to help keep their anxieties low. When such needs are addressed, education itself is more successful.

Sign up for your free email newsletter

“We are delighted to see at long last this facility being put to use by learners in the way that we intended when we acquired the site in the first place – a vision once again made reality through the ingenious design skills of The IAD Company.”