For many parents to autistic children, your child’s sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a daily struggle. While children can have SPD and not be autistic, it is very common for children with autism to have it. What does this mean? According to the Autism Awareness Centre Inc., SPDis a “condition where the brain and nervous system have trouble processing or integrating stimulus.” This can manifest itself as over- or under-stimulation to the senses, sensitivity to texture, noise, color, and transition, and clumsiness. Your child’s bedroom should be their safe space where they can calm down and relax, so here’s how to make sure it is sensory-friendly:
Use Calming Hues
Children’s bedrooms are often very colorful, but too much color can create unnecessary “noise” and overwhelm your child. Choose the color and theme of the room based on the moodyou are going for, which should be calm and stress-free. Blue is a serene color that can help lower your child’s blood pressure and slow their heart rate, while green is a restful color that gives off a sense of comfort. Light purple is restful as well and is a great accent shade.
Create a Getaway
The home is full of noise and movement, and there will be times when your child needs to take a breather. Your child’s bedroom is the perfect spot for them to retreat to, and you can make it better by adding sensory items. Find a corner in the room to add a cuddle swing, which provides your child with deep-pressure touch while enabling them to stretch out. (Bonus: you can DIY one with this tutorial.) Another option is to section off an area of the room with curtains to create a quiet nook. This is also helpful if your child shares their room with a sibling.
Clutter can be a sourceof overwhelming anxiety for anyone, including your child. Spend some time getting the bedroom organizedso that it is a place of zen rather than chaos. Many autistic children enjoy having items organized in a particular way, so include them in the process. If possible, keep things to a minimum with a small bin of toys, a place for laundry, and a desk with drawers. Multi-use furniturecould also come in handy; instead of keeping toys in a separate bin, pick up a box stoolthat can pull double duty. What’s more, this can cut down on the furniture around the room, which can help decrease the possibility of overstimulation while giving them a little more room to roam around. Also, be sure to conduct a daily sweep of the room to pick up any toys, laundry, or miscellaneous items that could be upsetting to them.
Calm the Senses
Sensitivity to light and sound are common in children with autism, so it is important that their bedroom calms these senses rather than overwhelms them. During the day, natural light is best, but LED bulbs can create calm lighting as well. It is best to avoid fluorescent bulbs, as the intense brightness and varying frequencies are disorienting. At nighttime, light can be a distraction, so be sure curtains are drawn, doors are closed, and any light is blocked out. Blackout curtains will come in handy as well, doubling as a way to block out light and soundproof the room.
Make It Safe
Sensory issues may cause your child to lack spatial awareness, resulting in bumps and bruises by knocking into furniture. Make safety a priorityby steering clear of furniture with metal frames and sharp corners. Cover sharp edges with stick-on bumper pads, and secure any top-heavy furniture, such as nightstands and bookshelves, to the wall. If your child tends to wake during the night to use the restroom or get a drink of water, use nightlights in the hall to light the way.
All children deserve a place to escape to that is quiet and relaxing. However, children with autism may require a little extra adjustment to create a sensory-friendly bedroom they can benefit from. With a few small changes, you’ll carve out the perfect getaway.