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Examples of good practice and innovation using the design principles and features

This section presents good-practice examples across a range of robust SDA design and development aspects that stakeholders shared in the research

This section presents good-practice examples across a range of robust SDA design and development aspects that stakeholders shared in the research. We give examples to do with:

  • building and design for an individual’s needs
  • creating flexibility
  • using outdoor spaces for productive activities
  • catering to cultural needs
  • balancing needs for privacy and social interaction
  • reducing restrictive practices and supporting independence through technology.

Building and design for an individual’s needs

One SDA developer said that a holistic understanding of the individual needs of their future residents underpinned their approach to developing robust SDA. To enable this, they got direct input from residents, their key support networks (e.g. family members and carers) and their SIL provider. This included reviewing individual behaviour support plans and including design features that would complement the plan.

Designing robust SDA for an individual’s needs from the beginning is best practice. Yet, one stakeholder gave an example of adjusting existing housing to minimise a resident’s individual triggers and behaviours, and the importance of knowing these. This stakeholder worked with a resident who was in accessible public housing and met the needs for robust SDA.

This resident’s main behaviour of concern was property damage due to banging her head against the wall. (This also put the resident at risk of injury, as well as damaging the property.) Robust design standards suggest that this resident needed stronger walls to prevent property damage. But this stakeholder understood the resident’s behaviour and saw that reinforcing the walls would place her at risk of further brain damage. Instead, the stakeholder used other solutions to offer a safer space. This included reducing environmental triggers and working with the resident to choose some of her own artworks and wall coverings to display. Decorating the walls with imagery that the resident liked reduced behaviours that may damage the property (and injure the resident).

Creating flexibility

One SDA developer includes design features of several SDA categories (e.g. robust, fully accessible and improved liveability) as a standard practice in all their SDA developments. This achieves greater flexibility in the future use and repurposing of SDA developments. The developer incorporates robust materials in SDA builds, even when not needed under the particular category they are building for.

Using outdoor spaces for productive activities

One stakeholder explained the value of having spaces and facilities for exercise and creative activities of choice in robust SDA for young men with autism. The stakeholder saw this as an effective way to support self-regulation and the pursuit of productive activities and hobbies for residents. This is particularly important for residents with autism. Engaging in such activities in a community setting can often be stressful and uncomfortable for this group.

This stakeholder worked with a man with autism who enjoyed spray painting and woodwork. The stakeholder set up a shed into the resident’s backyard to use for these activities. Another example included converting garages into spaces for gym equipment to offer ways for the body to understand its ability to sense its location, movements, and actions. This stakeholder said that these measures increased residents’ ability to self-regulate and their quality of life.

This type of at-home hobby is mostly overlooked; however, it is a very normalised way of enabling someone to engage in their own self-regulation and productive pursuits.

Catering to cultural needs

One stakeholder shared the example of a robust SDA designed for First Nations residents. The design addressed cultural needs through a co-design process with the resident’s community. This reduced the need for restrictive practices and the use of PRN medications (medications administered as needed) among residents.

The home design was a collaboration between an Aboriginal and a non-Aboriginal architect. Talks with Elders and the community about traditional housing structures to lessen behaviours of concern influenced the design.

Key features included:

  • a housing design that used traditional First Nations design but was built with modern materials
  • acknowledgment and use of First Nations belief systems into the housing structure and design – for example, curved walls to avoid sharp corners because sharp corners are where ‘bad spirits’ are found, to increase psychological safety
  • outdoor features that reminded residents of home country used in the landscape of the garden (e.g. gum trees).

Balancing needs for privacy and social interaction

One SDA developer felt it could be useful to have ‘cluster’ style properties with around five single-person homes on a larger block of land. The block would have shared indoor and outdoor spaces for residents. Although this stakeholder had not yet built such a property, they felt this layout could give residents an ideal balance between having a private space and greater independence. It would also offer ways for connecting with other residents on the property when chosen. They also felt that this would help to avoid residents triggering each other because a resident could easily choose to leave a social situation.

Using this model, less invasive staff supervision could also occur by giving a good line of sight between indoor and outdoor areas. This would allow residents to spend time alone in their home while staff watch the area as needed.

Reducing restrictive practices and supporting independence through technology

One stakeholder shared an example of an SDA build that uses leading-edge technology. In collaboration with telecommunications and technology corporations, using the technology reduced restrictive practices. Design-phase meetings with residents’ family members and support workers led to permission to use these new technologies in the home.

Key features of the home included the following:

  • Facial recognition to unlock the fridge. Restrictive locking practices did not have to be in place for residents where this was not needed. The health and safety of other residents who needed it was still protected.
  • RFID (radio frequency identification) tags in residents’ clothing to help people to access the front gate. This technology allowed one resident to safely unlock the door and check the mail without the risk of other residents leaving the property without support. For this resident, being able to check the post was important. Not knowing when the mail arrived caused anxiety. Including this feature reduced anxiety, behaviours of concern and the need for PRN medications.
  • Light automation. Lights came on at 6.00 am and slowly brightened over time to help residents wake up naturally at the beginning of the day. A similar feature that allowed blinds to lower on their own at the end of the day was also used.
  • Google system reminders (e.g. through Google Home). These were set up to remind residents of certain daily care tasks, enabling greater independence. For example, a resident may receive a reminder to ‘remember to brush your teeth’ when they enter the bathroom.