Children on the autism spectrum have unique needs. As parents, we might not always understand the reason behind a child’s preferences. Nonetheless, we do our best to accommodate them and create an environment where our child feels safe and comfortable.
When it comes to designing the home, the bedroom of a child with autism calls for particular attention. Children on the autism spectrum frequently have trouble sleeping. That lack of quality sleep, in turn, exacerbates some of autism’s most distressing behavioral problems, such as physical aggression and irritability. Designing a soothing, sensory-friendly bedroom helps children with autism sleep better and provides a safe space they can turn to when feeling overwhelmed.
These are some of the things that make an ideal bedroom environment for children on the autism spectrum:
Lighting can trigger mood changes in children with autism. This is especially noticeable with fluorescent lighting, which generate a flickering and humming that many children find distressing. Natural light is best for children on the autism spectrum; not only is it more calming than artificial light, but natural light helps regulate the circadian rhythms that control sleep. In dimly-lit rooms and after dark, LED lighting is the best choice.
While natural light is great, unfiltered light streaming through a window casts glares and shadows that may disturb a child with ASD. Dress windows with light-filtering curtains to achieve softer illumination in your child’s bedroom. You can also use curtains in more creative ways, like to designate private spaces in a shared bedroom or to carve out a quiet sensory-deprivation nook for your child.
Soothing Paint Colors
Red, orange, and yellow paint colors are known to boost energy, but for a child on the autism spectrum, these bright colors can be overstimulating. In general, muted greens, blues, purples, pinks, and browns are preferred by children with autism. Every child is different, however, so pay attention to how your child responds to different colors before selecting a bedroom paint color.
Children tend to go to bed earlier than adults, but if there’s still noise in the home, your child may focus on the sound rather than falling asleep. Soundproofing keeps outside noise out so kids can rest peacefully. Learn how to do it yourself at Soundproofable. A white noise machine can also be used to mask noise.
A Comfortable Bed
We don’t tend to start waking up with aches and pains until we’re older, but that doesn’t mean an uncomfortable bed isn’t affecting your child’s sleep. In addition to beds that are showing their age, certain mattress materials trap heat and contribute to night sweating. If you’re concerned about budget, buy a bed large enough that your child can continue using it through their adolescent years. Most mattresses last 7-10 years with proper care.
Soft Bedding and Pajamas
Many children with autism are irritated by rough fabrics, seams and tags in clothing. Keep your child’s fabric preferences and dislikes in mind when shopping for bedding and pajamas for his room. In general, soft, silky fabrics are best. You can also find seamless and tagless clothing designed specifically for kids on the spectrum. Friendship Circle names the best places to find such products.
A child’s bedroom isn’t only a place to sleep, it’s also a safe and private space where kids can relax and escape sensory overload. Sensory toys are excellent for calming children with autism by providing a positive sensory experience. Individual children are drawn to different sensory toys, but you can learn about some of the most popular ones here.
Sleep is central to physical, mental, and emotional wellness. For children with autism, the effects of poor sleep are especially pronounced. However, parents aren’t helpless to improve their child’s sleep. While redecorating may not completely solve the sleep problems of a child on the autism spectrum, the right bedroom environment goes a long way to making your child feel safe and secure in his room.