Building a future for Jacson
A NINE-year-old autistic child with Down syndrome is the catalyst for innovation in building design in Australia to aid people on the autism spectrum.
Michelle Dival wants to raise the benchmark for specialised building design in Australia on behalf of her grandson Jacson Schoolmeester.
In November, she will receive a fellowship from The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to travel the world in search of excellence and bring home that knowledge.
The Hills-based building designer with 20-plus years of experience will seek best practice in building homes, schools and workplaces for people with special needs.
Ms Dival (53) is one of 13 people from WA to be made a Churchill Fellow from a pool of 1140 applicants in 2017 across Australia.
“After Jacson’s diagnosis, I researched autism and came across a number of case studies, then came the light bulb moment,” she said.
“It was so logical to develop my skills as a building designer, to learn more about specialised design and apply that knowledge.
“I want to create a methodology around a person’s individual needs and the needs of their families,” she said.
Her eight-week trip begins in March and will involve visits to housing and schools in the US, France, Holland, Denmark and the UK where she will meet with representatives of The National Autistic Society in London.
She said the needs of people on the autism spectrum were many and varied.
“I will be talking to people that have worked in specialised design for a long time, who know what’s worked and what hasn’t,” she said.
“There are many aspects to consider, from creating spaces for social interaction, therapy and personal development, to adequate storage space and the fabrics to use.”
A key feature of her design will address safety concerns.
Camp Australia in Cloverdale was fined $30,000 in April last year after Jacson wandered away from an after-school-hours care centre without anyone noticing but was found about an hour later.
Michelle Dival with her grandson Jacson Schoolmeester in her home.