CSU, Chico News

Interior Designer Contributes to Creation of Facility for People with Autism

Date: 01-28-2009

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs

Kijeong Jeon, coordinator of the Interior Design Program in the Department of Art and Art History, California State University, Chico, provided the interior design for California Vocations’ patient care facility for people with autism, the COVE. The facility opened in Paradise in December. The project grew out of the need to have a base site and treatment center for clients in the day program run by California Vocations. The facility was completed with the cooperation and contributions of architects, civil engineers, builders, landscapers and audio-visual specialists from Paradise and the surrounding area.

Jeon was contacted by Bob Irvine, executive director of California Vocations. Irvine and Terry Kozloff, director of the COVE Day Program, had the seeds of the idea two years ago, when changes in the Paradise curbside recycling program, which had been at the heart of the day program, forced them to look at opportunities for more individualized programming. The change in programming also required a base where clients could go to relax and rest.

Jeon took on the project whole-heartedly, said Kozloff. “What a fabulous man!” said Kozloff. “He made a commitment and did the research and planning to make the COVE possible.”

The design of the COVE, said Jeon, is based on research and observations and interviews with people involved or afflicted with autism, including instructors, care givers and clients. “The finished interior environment incorporates spatial volumes, architectural details, colors, lighting and sounds that respond to the particular sensory needs of the clients, while still functioning as an educational environment.”

To the best of Jeon’s knowledge, the COVE is one of the first such spaces in the country to be designed based on behavioral studies of the autistic.

“I consider this space the most fulfilling design project in my professional career, not just for the aesthetic value of the design, but for the impact it could have on the lives of those who could be served by such adaptations in the environment,” said Jeon. “With the population of people with autism increasing, I realize the importance of educating the community and government agencies to the benefits of providing uniquely designed environments that enable people with autism to relax, learn and progress.”

Kozloff said that, although the environment is not for everyone and each person with autism has unique needs and responses, she has seen significant improvement in some people. “There is one person who we believed had much inside we couldn’t reach. He would lie on the floor, not make eye contact and not talk to people,” said Kozloff. “In just a couple of months, he is more social, walks around the facility and uses the touch screen computers. It is really amazing and has made such a difference in his life!”

Jeon plans to remain involved with the COVE. He will participate in post occupancy evaluations, focusing on the effectiveness of the design solutions and the patients’ use of the space. “I want to refine and possibly develop new and more effective design solutions that can be used in residential applications for people with autism.”

Kozloff says that the plan is to find ways to extend the use of the COVE to the community. They have already had many inquiries about using the COVE for children’s classes and meeting other special needs in the community. For more information, you can contact Irvine at 530-877-4146, ex. 202, or Kozloff at 530-877-0937.

California Vocations receives part of its funding from the Far Northern Regional Center.