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.