The importance of published papers
Published papers allow scholars, students, and the public to learn about current research, its findings, and what further studies may be needed in the field. For work to be published, papers undergo rigorous peer-reviews and multiple stages of editing. The following papers are a sampling of Dr. Kanakri’s published research from studies completed in the Health and Environmental Design Research lab, studies she’s completed in similar areas with other scholars, and her PhD dissertation.
Noise and autism spectrum disorder in children: An exploratory survey
Research in Developmental Disabilities, February 2017
Shireen M. Kanakri, Mardelle Shepley, James W. Varni, Louis G. Tassinary
With more students being educated in schools for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) than ever before, architects and interior designers need to consider the environmental features that may be modified to enhance the academic and social success of autistic students in school.
This study explored existing empirical research on the impact of noise on children with ASD and provides recommendations regarding design features that can contribute to noise reduction.
Art and autism: Caregiver input
Advances in Pediatric Research, June 2018
Shireen M. Kanakri, Kathy Hathorn
Evidence is needed for how to design spaces that enhance the well-being of children with autism spectrum disorders. Prior research suggests art selection within challenging environments has a positive impact on the well-being of those using the space. Additionally, art images in classroom spaces are hypothesized to have an impact on children’s behaviors. More studies are needed to inform the decisions about what art is appropriate in regard to children with autism. The present study surveyed teachers that work with children with autism spectrum disorders as well as children with high functioning autism to gain information about what types of artwork they felt would be appropriate for their classrooms. The study was a cross sectional design in nature and aimed to gain both quantitative and qualitative results through online surveys sent to5 different school sites. The sites each specialized in working with children with autism spectrum disorders.
Observational study of acoustic design and repetitive behaviors on children with autism
Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA), May 2017
Shireen M. Kanakri, Mardelle Shepley, Louis G. Tassinary, James W. Varni, Haitham M. Fawaz
As the majority of individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) live with sensory processing differences, the acoustic environment is of primary concern within interior design considerations (Martin, 2014). This research paper explores how noise levels affect the behavior of children with autism in classroom settings and use the findings to generate future research ideas that will strength the empirical evidence of guidelines for interior design for autism.
An observational study of classroom acoustical design and repetitive behaviors in children with autism
Environment and Behavior, October 2016
Shireen M. Kanakri, Mardelle Shepley, Louis G. Tassinary, James W. Varni, Haitham M. Fawaz
The objective of the present study is to explore the impact of acoustical design on children with autism in school classrooms. Empirical research on this topic will provide information on how interior space features and spatial environment characteristics can be used to support the learning and developmental needs of children with autism. Specifically, the connection between repetitive behaviors and ambient noise levels in school classroom environments was observed in four classrooms. The occurrence of repetitive motor movements, repetitive speech, ear covering, hitting, loud vocalizations, blinking, and verbally complaining in relation to decibel levels were analyzed using Noldus Observer XT software. As hypothesized, a correlation between noise levels and frequency of target behaviors was found; that is, as decibel levels increased, several of the observed behaviors occurred with greater frequency. Further empirical testing is necessary to test a causal relationship between increased ambient noise levels and autism-related behaviors, and sensory discomfort as a mediator of that relationship. Findings are applied to the development of classroom design guidelines.
CAP lab tests impact of room design on children with autism
Ball State University Magazine, March 2018
“When I started working on my doctorate in 2008, I noticed there were huge facilities called autism centers where I was expecting to see a very specific environment,” Dr. Kanakri recalled. “However, I saw rooms with gray walls and large windows — or rooms without any windows. After speaking with architects who designed these facilities, I found there were no guidelines that would allow them to design rooms just for this special population.”
She designed her research on the effects of sensory stimuli on children with autism in the hopes that her findings lead to potential design solutions for creating spaces that better support those children and their needs.
Small changes to environment may improve care, education of children with autism
Infectious Diseases in Children Journal, June 2018
Many children with autism exposed to certain sensory information, such as the brightness or certain colors of a pediatrician’s office or the sound of a classroom, have difficulties processing these environmental stimuli. These stimuli may overwhelm the child and can either positively or negatively impact their treatment and learning outcomes.
Addressing these difficulties with sensory processing is a primary objective of research conducted at Ball State University by Shireen Kanakri, PhD, Architect, EDRA, director of Health Design Environmental Research Lab, a member of the university’s Center for Autism Spectrum Disorder and assistant professor at the College of Architecture and Planning.
According to Kanakri, children with autism begin participating in the study as soon as they enter the waiting area of the Design Research Lab. These rooms include acoustic paneling to control the noise of the environment and provide an opportunity for the child to relax and play with activities such as painting, puzzles and playing with sand and sensory toys. Once an activity is chosen, Kanakri and colleagues move the child to the lab, where they conduct sessions that examine the child’s response to different levels of sound, exposure to multiple colors and responses to light.
Spaces Matters: Classroom acoustics and repetitive behaviors in preschool children with autism
American Journal of Pediatrics, November 2017
Shireen M. Kanakri
Autism has generally been ignored by the interior design community and excluded from building codes and guidelines, even those developed explicitly for special needs individuals. This research will look into how interior design factors affect individuals with autism; specifically with regards to acoustics. Today’s world has put much emphasis and consideration towards the diversity of individuals and their developmental and psycho-social disorders, yet research has not been thorough in this topic; thus, this article presents a further step when considering development. Therefore, one of the primary aims of this research is to correct this exclusion by developing a preliminary framework of interior design guidelines for autism. To reach this goal of developing a framework for architectural guidelines for autism, an extensive literature review was conducted and a behavioral observation took place. Four classrooms were identified in two schools (two rooms in each school) based on their noise levels and behaviors were recorded from 42 participants. Research results indicate that environment is important to the treatment of autism because it influences behavior. A significant positive correlation between noise levels and frequency of target behaviors was found; that is, as decibel levels increased, several of the observed behaviors occurred with greater frequency. This research gives practical solutions that architects and designers can use to modify the environment for children with autism. Developed and expounded by the author in two previous studies (Kanakri, et al. “An Observational Study of Classroom Acoustical Design and Repetitive Behaviors in Children With Autism,” Sage Publications, pp. 1-27, 2016) and (Kanakri, S. M., The Impact of Acoustical Environmental Design on Children with Autism. 2014), these analyses lay the groundwork for this article’s research which provides tangible modifications to help these children develop their skills, cope with auditory problems and improve their behaviors.
The impact of sounds on autistic children’s behaviors
Behavioral Research Blog by Noldus Information Technology, September 2017
Children with autism have trouble dealing with these external distractions, because they have different sensitivities to the environment than other individuals. They must expend more effort to process stimuli, such as sounds, colors, feelings, and odors. Controlling the noise, careful use of color, limiting details, and purposeful design are therefore important components in designing spaces for these children, particularly classrooms. These environmental concerns are increasingly considered in architectural and interior design work.
Researcher Shireen Kanakri conducted a study to observe the impact of the acoustic environment on autistic children’s behaviors. She specifically focused on repetitive speech and motor movement, while in a classroom setting. Children were observed in four different classrooms, each with a different decibel (dB) level in the room.
Acoustic design and repetitive speech and motor movement in children with autism
Environment and Ecology Research, 2017
Shireen M. Kanakri
Emerging research in Evidence-Based Design for interiors such as classrooms has begun considering the unique sensory needs of users with autism spectrum disorders. The current study observes the impact of the acoustic environment on repetitive speech and motor movement in children with autism. An observational study was conducted in four school classrooms to observe changes in behavior associated with changes in the decibel levels in the room. Forty-two children diagnosed with high-functioning autism between the ages of six and nine years old were observed in classroom settings. Variant decibel levels in the classrooms and variance in the frequency of repetitive behaviors were measured to determine the strength and direction of the correlations between the two. Results were analyzed using Noldus Observer XT software and confirmed the hypothesized relationship. The finding that repetitive behavior is correlated with the acoustical condition of the environment should be considered in the design of classrooms for children with autism, for the benefit of user comfort and educational performance.