Calm, Clean, and Quiet: Creating a Bedroom Space for an Autistic Child by Emily Graham
Children on the autism spectrum are, as Temple Grandin put it, “different but not less.” They have their own individuality and identities, their own needs, tastes, and expectations. Creating an individualized bedroom space that suits your child’s personality and meets the needs that are particular to autism is an opportunity to celebrate your child’s uniqueness and encourage his or her creativity and confidence. In fact, it’s important to pay attention to his or her sensory needs and desire for a well-organized space that’s uniquely theirs. Here are some ideas for individuals with autistic children on how to create a meaningful, comforting, and restful space for your child.
A bedroom environment with lots of intense stimuli may overwhelm a child with autism. Opt for light shades of your youngster’s favorite color scheme and avoid strong, bold colors that can be overstimulating. Remember, the one thing you don’t want to do is overwhelm or disturb an autistic child in their bedroom, which should be a haven from the world. Favor shades of green that recall natural scenes of trees and green grass, which autistic individuals often find soothing. If you want to get creative, consider applying colors that are associated with your child’s favorite things to do. Take a multimedia approach and add sounds of nature, such as a babbling brook, lapping waves, or wind — anything that adds to an overall calming effect will be beneficial.
Sleep is an important health factor for everyone. It’s essential for helping an autistic child feel calm and at ease, and for coping with stressors. Be sure there’s not a problem with his mattress if your child isn’t getting the sleep she needs. Consider getting a new one if your child’s mattress isn’t conducive to his sleep style (side sleepers, for example, will need a softer mattress). If she gets uncomfortably hot at night, you may need to consider a mattress with breathable material.
Make It Safe
Design your child’s decor to create an environment that minimizes the possibility of accidents as much as possible. Use plenty of common sense, and stay away from furniture with hard corners or sharp edges, opting instead for furniture made of molded plastic with rounded corners. If you intend to install blinds or curtains, be sure to remove any cords that could cause problems.
Light and Sound
Too much light and sound can combine to create an unsettling situation for an autistic child, so think about incorporating soft, noise-inhibiting carpeting and insulation. Hang curtains thick enough to block out the light, but which are easy for your child to open and close as desired. Take care of any hinges that creak, and avoid bedding with noisy springs. Using some form of insulation will help inhibit many of the sounds that an autistic child might find disturbing.
Organization and Storage
A clean and orderly space is a best-case scenario for an autistic child. Add some plastic storage bins for toys, games, and knick-knacks that will encourage your child to keep his room picked up. Clutter can create a disorienting feel that an autistic child may find distracting or upsetting, so make sure that everything’s where it should be. If it doesn’t belong or if there’s no room for it, you should consider recycling or donating it.
Use of Space
Part of maintaining a well-organized space means dividing it into different functions, with one section for sleeping, another for studying/school work, and another for play. It’s an effective strategy for helping your child stay calm and avoiding behaviors that could result from an unsettled or uncomfortable environment.
Listen to what your child has to say about his bedroom space. If she begins talking about some feature she doesn’t like, consider replacing or getting rid of it. Remember, it’s important to maintain an environment that’s comfortable, safe, and calming.
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