How to Design a Bedroom for a Child With Autism

Children with autism often experience some level of visual, auditory, or tactile sensitivity which can affect how they experience and appreciate their bedroom environment. This article explains how to design a bedroom for an autistic child that caters to their unique sensory needs.

Key takeaways:

Autism and sensory processing

When designing a bedroom for an autistic child, it is important to consider the way autism can affect a child’s ability to process sensory input. Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experience certain types of sensitivities to their environment. The type and severity of these sensitivities vary widely, but they often fall within the visual, auditory, and tactile categories.

For example, some children with autism may be especially bothered by bright or flashing lights. Others may be particularly sensitive to loud sounds or specific textures. Some autistic children can become overwhelmed by any combination of these factors, succumbing to sensory overload rather quickly. Sensory overload can be distressing and frustrating for both the child and the parent.

General bedroom safety considerations

There are several safety concerns to take into account when designing a bedroom for an autistic child. Here are some general recommendations to ensure a safe bedroom environment:

  • Electrical cords. Electrical cords should be kept out of the child's sight as much as possible. Avoid having cords laying across walkways where the child may accidentally trip over them.
  • Outlets. Electrical outlets should have protective covers installed to avoid electrocution injuries.
  • Doors and windows. Doors and windows should have safety locks installed to prevent escape.
  • Low bed placement. It is recommended that children with autism have floor beds or, at the very least, beds that are low to the ground. Many children with ASD enjoy jumping and bouncing, so having a low bed decreases the risk of bodily injury when doing these activities.
  • Flooring. Carpeting and area rugs are highly encouraged in an autistic child's bedroom. Not only is soft flooring safer, but it is also much quieter than hardwood or laminate, which is important for children with auditory sensitivities.
  • Blinds and shades. All window blinds and shades should have safety cords installed to avoid accidental strangulation or entanglement injuries.

Bedroom design for a child with autism: Recommendations

It is important to consider your child’s unique sensory issues when designing a bedroom that will best suit their developmental and safety needs. Overall, the goal is to create a bedroom environment that is calming, non-stimulating, and conducive to quality sleep.

Room layout and color palette

Some children with ASD appreciate having specific “zones” set up in their rooms. For example, the parent may set up areas, particularly for sleeping, playing, and learning. Establishing these zones can prevent overstimulation and encourage a predictable routine, which many autistic children prefer.

When choosing an overall color scheme for the bedroom, it is best to choose a calm color palette for autistic children. Bright colors and patterns such as plaid or polka dots can be overstimulating for children with ASD. In addition, always choose non-toxic paint and consider an eggshell finish for easier cleaning.

Here are some examples of calming, muted colors:

  • Light blue
  • Light green
  • Light purple
  • Gray
  • Cream
  • Beige

Lighting

Certain types of lighting can be extremely overstimulating for some children with ASD. When designing a bedroom for a child with autism, it is best to install soft, dimmable light fixtures. This gives the parent the ability to easily adjust the lighting based on the needs of the child.

For safety reasons, you may also consider using overhead lighting as opposed to lamps with cords. Replace any faulty bulbs promptly as the strobing effect created by failing light bulbs can be upsetting to some children with autism.

Many autistic children also have difficulty sleeping, so blackout curtains or shades are highly recommended. If your child requires a nightlight, ensure it is very dim to prevent overstimulation. Although red-tinted lights have been shown to be the least disruptive for sleep in adults and children without ASD, some studies suggest that red light may actually be stimulating to autistic children.

Bedding

For autistic children with tactile sensitivities, the type of bedding you choose is crucial for their sleep quality. It is recommended that you choose bedding with a soft texture, such as cotton, flannel, or sateen. It is best to avoid scratchy textures like wool and bright patterns.

Firm, flat mattresses are usually the least disruptive for sleep since they are less likely to make noise or sag uncomfortably. Weighted blankets and body pillows can offer security and comfort for older children.

Storage

Clutter can be overstimulating for some children with ASD, so utilizing high-quality storage solutions is encouraged. Consider using lockable containers for items that pose a safety risk when accessed unsupervised. Underbed storage is also an effective way to keep more things out of sight, decreasing the likelihood of overstimulation due to clutter.

Toys

It can be difficult to choose appropriate toys for a child with ASD. Toy recommendations can vary based on the child’s specific needs. However, lower stimulus toys are usually the better choice.

  • Sensory toys. Sensory toys that allow the child to focus on a specific task or to fidget are highly encouraged.
  • Projectors. Projectors that cast soft images or lighting around the room can be soothing for some children.
  • White noise. White noise machines can also be helpful, especially to promote sleep.

Toys with blinking lights or loud music are generally discouraged since they can be overstimulating for some autistic children. Television, video game consoles, hand-held devices, and tablets should not be kept in the child’s bedroom, as these items are proven to be highly stimulating and encourage addictive behaviors.

When introducing new toys to the bedroom, watch your child’s reaction closely. If the new toy seems to distress or overstimulate them, promptly remove the toy from the child’s environment.

Designing a bedroom for an autistic child can be a daunting task. Since the sensory needs of children with ASD can vary widely, it is crucial that you consider your child's unique requirements when creating their bedroom to ensure that it is safe, functional, and nurturing.

5 resources


Leave a reply

Your email will not be published. All fields are required.