By: Jenny Wise
Parenting a child on the autism spectrum often involves some level of adaptation. A child with autism responds differently to the world around them, so it takes a bit more thought to make sure the environment they live in is one in which they can feel truly safe, comfortable, and stimulated (but not too much). The bedroom is the most important room in the house for a child, so here are a few ways in which you can make it a perfect fit.
According to VeryWell Family, all children benefit from sensory play. It teaches them how to use their senses to understand the world around them while improving fine motor skills and providing a calming effect. For children with autism, who often struggle with sensory integration, sensory play is absolutely essential.
The best way to encourage sensory play in the bedroom is to have a dedicated space to it. It can be a desk, a pile of beanbags, or a rug. Make it as fun and interesting as possible, and fill it with toys, books, and craft supplies that encourage sensory play and exploration.
Overstimulation is a common issue for children with autism spectrum disorder. However, a few simple steps can be enough to keep them comfortable while also creating a relaxing environment in which they can sleep soundly at night.
● If the neighborhood is noisy, make small changes to soundproof the room.
● Avoid fluorescent lighting at all costs, as it can be distressing to people on the spectrum. Use warm, muted lighting instead, preferably with a dimmer.
● Use soothing essential oils such as lavender, vetiver, and chamomile. Use a diffuser and start off with low concentrations to make sure the smell isn’t overpowering.
An Organized Space
Children with autism tend to like organization and clear rules, so it’s up to you to set up an easy-to-follow system. Use clearly labeled boxes and cubbies with pictures of the type of object that is meant to go in each box. Also, set a daily routine where your child has 10 minutes to put everything in its place, and be consistent.
It also helps if you change the accepted attitude toward toys. The idea of “toy minimalism” has gained traction in the past few years, which advocates that children don’t need as many toys as we give them. This idea is very useful for children with autism since it helps keep clutter under control. This guide by Becoming Minimalist has some good, practical advice on getting started.
These tips are also very useful for parents of children in wheelchairs or with limited mobility, as keeping the room tidy is essential for the child to be able to move about freely and safely.
Beyond The Bedroom
Although the bedroom should be your child’s sanctuary, you should still strive to make sure the rest of the house feels equally comfortable and stimulating. The backyard is an especially important area to focus on since outdoor play can help development in children with autism.
This is another great place to incorporate sensory play. Great examples of outdoor sensory play include a sandbox, bird sanctuary (where the child gets to interact with the seeds), and various fun forms of water play. Many DIY sensory toys and games can be a bit messy, so it’s also a great idea to take these outdoors when the weather is good.
Of course, this advice isn’t going to necessarily apply to every child with autism. Things like sensory stimulation vary widely from child to child, and it’s crucial to keep this in mind when you are designing their ideal bedroom. No one knows what makes them feel safe and happy as much as they do, so let your child be your guide.
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