Creating a bedroom for an autistic child

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As a parent to a child with autism, it takes plenty of observation to establish what gives comfort and what does not. That is particularly important when designing a bedroom that must first be a place of safety. If you are unsure where to begin, here are some ideas on building a haven.

Where to Start?

This may only be one room, but you need to know where to start to create the perfect refuge. Regardless of whether autism has been a recent diagnosis, there is much to consider when it comes to designing a bedroom. Although there is no universal range of symptoms, there are various sensitivities that could preclude certain textures, including bedding or colours for décor. It can seem overwhelming, but there are places throughout Canada where advice and support are available, which can be found at provincial and charitable levels. They may offer valuable insights into what adjustments can benefit your little one, and what to avoid in their bedroom.

Invest in Their Interests

Much of designing an autism-friendly environment is about functionality and safety, but don’t overlook the special interests of your little one. Do they have a hobby that they are passionate about, such as photography or dinosaurs? While these interests need to be well-managed, you could encourage their passions by incorporating them into their bedroom. If they are fond of something, you don’t have to potentially overwhelm them with decals or print sheets. Instead, focus on subtle references, something that can also be reassuring, like a night light that reflects their interests, whether it’s rockets or giraffes.

Create a Calm Down Zone

There may have been moments in your child’s life where they were overwhelmed or experienced mood swings. When this happens outside, the natural solution is to leave the problem area, but what about at home? They may already have a safe area, but consider having a part of the bedroom dedicated to de-escalation. You might choose one section or spread out the room with autism-friendly products, such as swings and weighted blankets that can tangibly soothe through pressure or gentle movement. Other products can be aesthetic or stimulating, as bubble tubes can engage the senses, just as play bins containing kinetic sand can provide welcomed texture stimulation.

Use Colour to Manage Mood

Has your little one appeared calmer when surrounded by a specific hue, or have their moods even experienced a downturn when exposed to certain shades? Some children on the spectrum can be as sensitive to sight as they are to sound and touch, and may become distressed or overstimulated. Yet, the right calming choices can positively impact focus, mood, and even learning. For instance, blue may not only be relaxing, but it could aid sleep, while pink can also be soothing regardless of gender. Whatever is chosen, be sure that it’s something your child loves, and give them the ultimate decision — within reason.

Protect Through Design

It’s natural to only focus on the fun that can come with designing a room, but safety considerations are central to its success. Your little one’s room must be designed around them, so factor in any behavioural tendencies, like climbing or a compulsive curiosity, that have the potential to be dangerous. If you add technology, be it a television or a lampshade, ensure associated wires are not easily accessible and that any breakable items are secured. Likewise, place locks on windows if they have shown to have climbing habits, and attach alarms to their bedroom entrance in case of wandering. Lastly, label objects — including furniture — to encourage proper use and maximize their environment.

A bedroom should be a safe place for anyone, but more so for children. While safety modifications may have to be made, they should have an environment where they can have fun and channel themselves positively. With planning, their bedroom can be a true sanctuary.

Article courtesy of Jenny Wise.

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