Sensory Considerations In Designing A Bedroom For A Child With Autism
Sensory issues are difficult for children with autism. For these children, their bedrooms can be a sanctuary from other stressful areas. You can make a child’s bedroom a retreat by reducing sensory elements; consider all their senses, including smells and sounds. Here are some helpful tips to help parents get started.
Clearing the Air
Your first thought when decorating your child’s bedroom might not be related to air quality, but you should definitely add it to your list. Ridding the air of pollutants such as mold, dust, and pollen will make your child more comfortable in a room where he spends lots of time.
Pollutants can cause allergies and other respiratory issues. Use an air purifier (make sure you choose the correct size) to clean the air, and replace your HVAC filter often. Use HEPA filters to trap most airborne pollutants. You can order filters online and even subscribe to a service that ships them automatically so you don’t have to remember to order them.
Other scents can cause irritation as well. Laundry detergent and fabric softener scents, for example, can often be overpowering, so consider choosing scent-free laundry products. Soaps, candles, and colognes may bother children on the autism spectrum, so watch for places in your house where these products are frequently used. Many companies make scent-free or lightly scented soaps for the bathroom and kitchen. When choosing a cologne or candle, take your child along to sample the scents and find a pleasing one.
Sound pollution can be disturbing to children with autism. Barking dogs, traffic noise, and the television in the next room can irritate your child. If so, consider investing in a white noise machine. Ocean waves, a gentle breeze, or merely a buzzing sound can mask other sounds that bother kids. A radio tuned to a classical station can also be soothing. A CD player with your child’s favorite singer or band can be the most soothing thing of all. You may need to try many different sounds to find the right one for your child. You may even need to mix up the sounds from time to time as your child grows tired of one and cycle through several options.
Bold colors and lots of clutter are overstimulating for children with autism. When planning paint colors, choose colors that are soothing. Pale colors such as tan and gray are much less stimulating and provide a neutral palette. A single bold element, such as a piece of art or a giant sunflower in a vase, can brighten a room without being overpowering.
Clutter is overwhelming for most people, but it’s especially difficult for children with autism. Cut the clutter by organizing toys in plastic bins or baskets. Store most of these items in the closet so your child can close the door to reduce the overstimulation of too much stuff. Periodically sort through your child’s belongings and weed out things that are broken or worn.
Your child may need a special bed to feel safe, even in the bedroom. Consider a tent bed or some type of barrier to keep her from falling out of bed. Consider providing your child with a place to get away from all the stimulation. Hang a curtain diagonally across the corner of his room, creating a tented space. Add some large cushions covered in a soft fabric and a low-light lamp, and your child may find this the perfect spot to read or play with a favorite toy.
When you are decorating your child’s bedroom, wall colors, lighting, and storage options may be the first things that come to mind. For a child with autism, remember to plan for all the senses, including smell and hearing. Scents and sounds can be just as upsetting as things your child can see and touch. A little planning will help your child have happy times in their bedroom.