Paul Schumacher USA, 18

project: The Star Room
basic human NEEDS: HEALTH

Theme Song: “Life Is a Highway” by Tom Cochrane

Growing up with his autistic brother Andrew, Paul experienced the challenges that families with autistic children face. The risk of Andrew having an autistic meltdown from sensory overload confined him to their home, and made a family outing a rare, stressful and unpredictable situation. Andrew couldn’t attend school or make friends, and spent eight hours in therapy each day. Paul developed the Star Room, a revolutionary sensory-neutral environment. The Star Room can serve as a space to de-escalate from sensory overload, learn to control reactions, do homework or therapy without distraction, or as a comfortable setting for children to play with others and develop relationships. Its design improves the lives of individuals with Autism in addition to other sensory disorders including ADHD, migraines, multiple sclerosis, severe allergies, photosensitivity, insomnia and many more.

Paul’s prototypes in multiple schools have immensely improved the academic experience for more than 200 students with autism and other disorders. They can get through the day without the agitation of sensory overstimulation and meltdowns, allowing them to succeed both academically and socially. Paul will soon begin building the Star Room in homes – one design specifically for children with autism, and another design for other medical conditions. In the future, Paul envisions Star Rooms will be available in all public spaces, giving every family the opportunity to enjoy experiences together.