Designing a Bedroom for an Autistic Child
It can be a lot of fun to design a bedroom for your child that appeals to her likes, interests and abilities. A child needs to feel special and find ways to express her individuality – a custom-designed bedroom can certainly do that. Things are a bit different for a youngster on the autism spectrum. Autistic children exhibit varying degrees of sensitivity to stimuli like colors, noise, lighting and designs, so it’s very important to use environmental factors that help her feel relaxed and safe within her own personal refuge. Attention to detail is crucial when designing a bedroom for an autistic child.
Think soothing when selecting a color palette for your child. Intense, vibrant colors can upset an autistic child’s heightened sensitivity, so opt for relaxing shades of blue (which promote sleep), soft grays or low-intensity neutral shades. Solid white or bright shades of yellow may seem like good neutral choices, but a stark, solid color can be too intense for an autistic child. If you’re considering going with wallpaper, avoid busy patterns like plaid, bright stripes or any surface with reflective material. Listen carefully to your child when choosing a color scheme – her favorite color may be the best choice.
When it comes to furniture and amenities, keep it spacious and sparse. An open space with plenty of flow will keep an autistic child from feeling constrained or limited. Avoid hard corners and sharp edges, which means a large wooden bed frame probably isn’t the best choice. Instead, keep it simple by going with a mattress on a box spring, and adding a plastic bookshelf and soft chairs (bean-bag or balance-ball chairs work well) for decor. Remember that an autistic child craves an ordered living environment, so make the most of plastic storage bins (color-coded to help your child keep clothes and toys where they belong). If your child is young, keep electrical cords out of the way – secured along the wall or baseboard is a good way to avoid accidents.
Lighting might be the most important aspect of an autistic child’s bedroom environment. Intrusive or glaring light can be overwhelming. Fluorescent lighting, for example, is intermittent with fractional interruptions in the beam, and it emits a low-level buzzing that can get on anyone’s nerves. For an autistic child, a persistent buzzing sound can be extremely unsettling. Incandescent lighting is a softer, more relaxing choice, and one that an autistic child will find easier to live with. If necessary, place a soft night light in your child’s room, and shut down or remove all screens at night.
Keep it marked and organised
One of the main reasons why I find September so motivating is because there’s a nice 4-month period before Christmas to focus on. This makes goal-setting a lot easier. Your teachers will be setting termly targets for your children, so seize this opportunity to set some for yourself – whether it be a personal or a professional goal – what do you want to be doing/be feeling by Christmas?
Vision and hearing aren’t the only senses that need to be considered when designing a bedroom for an autistic child. You should opt for soft textures that are easy to interact with, so steer clear of metal chairs and shelving, and make sure that bed clothing isn’t rough or too constraining.
Children on the autism spectrum need a haven where they can get away from the disruptions and sensory intrusions they face during the day at school and on the school bus. Think soft lighting, relaxing colors, and a well-organized, functional living space. Leave the rest to your child, who should play a lead role in creating a bedroom with which she can feel happy and comfortable.
Thank you to Jenny Wise for this article. She is a homeschooling mum to four children, one of whom is autistic. She and her husband decided to home-educate when their oldest was four years old.