DESIGN YOUR LIFE: DEVELOPING AND VALIDATING A PRACTICE-CENTRED PARTICIPATORY DESIGN APPROACH TO EMPOWER AUTISTIC YOUNG ADULTS IN DAILY LIFE.

Moving into adulthood presents a variety of challenges for young adults on the autistic spectrum. Many have the ambition and capacity to live (more) independently, yet also need appropriate support. Increasingly, assistive technologies are considered, possibly embedded in the home. However, many technologies are never tried, or quickly abandoned. One cause may be that many products do not fit individual needs, contexts and capabilities. Young adults on the spectrum have highly heterogeneous needs and talents. In this project we investigate the power of participatory design - not in early stages of new product development - but as a part of daily practice, to enable young adults in adapting their own home environment. We ask how autistic young adults could create tailored supportive environments, using minimal technological resources. Grounded in real-world cases, involving young adults and their care-givers, we develop and validate the Design Your Life approach. With this approach individuals and care-givers iteratively envision, select, adapt and evaluate personalized, technological, supportive ‘arrangements’. The process ensures integration of the arrangement in the social network and with practical organisation of the home environment. At minimum it consists in creatively selecting and combining ‘off the shelf’ technologies and personalizing where possible. Users with more technical skills may include building new elements themselves. We investigate whether such co-created arrangements empower young adults in daily life, as well as whether the participatory process helps young adults and care-givers form a shared understanding into personal goals, capabilities and needs.