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For a child on the autism spectrum, a well-designed bedroom will promote independence, creativity, and relaxation. Above all, the bedroom should feel secure and comfortable, but it should also conform to the child’s own needs and preferences. These design ideas can help parents on any budget develop a personal space for their child where he or she can play and sleep in comfort.
Select Calming Colors
Paint is an inexpensive way to let your child’s personality shine in their room. However, bright bedroom colors are often too intense for children with autism. Instead, paint the walls in tranquil hues; muted blues, greens, and purples are excellent choices. According to Angie’s List, earth tones and light blues are excellent for promoting relaxation and deep sleep. It's also important to choose a color that your child likes, so ask for their opinion before selecting one. If they're adamant on vivid colors, like orange or red, try to compromise on a softer shade of their chosen color.
Soften the Lighting
According to Autism Speaks, bright lights can be irritating — and even painful — to people on the autism spectrum. Fluorescent lights can be particularly troubling since many people with autism can detect the rapid flicker they emit. Calm lighting in your child’s bedroom is best. Take advantage of natural light from windows and choose softer, diffused lighting with lampshades or floor lights instead of bright, overhead lamps. Simply changing out high-wattage light bulbs with softer, lower-wattage ones is an easy, budget-friendly way to accomplish this task.
At night, light in the bedroom can disrupt sleep. Use blackout curtains so your child’s bedroom is completely dark. If your child needs a night light, select red or orange to reduce sleep disruption.
The light emitted from electronics can also reduce sleep quality. Electronics give off a particular wavelength of light that increases alertness in the brain and stops the production of important sleep hormones. Keep electronics out of your child's room so they aren’t tempted to use them before bed. This includes TVs, computers, tablets, and even phones. Even better, this step costs you nothing.
Create Designated Activity Spaces
Once you’ve optimized the room design for better sleep, you can move on to features that will facilitate play and exploration. Consider creating separate zones in the room for play or learning. Try to keep these stimulating zones away from the bed; beside a bright window is ideal. A room partition or inexpensive curtain hung from the ceiling can help you further divide the stimulating and relaxing zones.
Also, try adding a designated area for sensory deprivation. A tent or a big chair with a weighted blanket can give your child somewhere comfortable to go when their senses are overwhelmed.
Add Sensory Features
Adding sensory features to your child’s room can help them develop their senses in an enjoyable environment. Autism Journey recommends creating a multi-sensory environment that includes visual, acoustic, tactile, and olfactory stimuli. Incorporating calming music, light projections, and textured surfaces into your child’s bedroom design can help you achieve this. You can even pull many of these items from other rooms in your home, like a memory foam bath mat’s squishy surface or an exercise ball as a bouncy seat. Just be sure to check with your child before adding elements since it’s important they feel safe.
Go for a Minimalist Design
Another free tip is to try to organize all of these design features into a more minimalist style. Clutter can make it difficult for children with autism to make sense of their surroundings, leading to frustration and anxiety. Remove objects, furniture, and toys from the room that your child doesn’t use. Try to keep surfaces clear of knick-knacks. A shelf lined with clear or color-coded bins can house all of your child’s belongings out of the way while still keeping them easy to access. Label these bins with words or pictures so your child knows what’s inside.
Kids on the autism spectrum can benefit from a room that is tailored to their needs, and it’s possible on any budget. Maintain a calming environment while providing gentle sensory stimulation so your child feels comfortable enough to explore new hobbies, learn new things, and sleep well. Consider these tips and remember to ask your child what they like — they’ll feel immense pride and confidence making some of these design decisions on their own!
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