All kids love their bedrooms, but for kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) it’s especially precious as a safe space where they can retreat and calm down if overwhelmed. Here’s how to create a sensory-bedroom sanctuary that’s both stylish and conducive to relaxation and a good night’s sleep.
Kids with autism thrive in calm and relaxing settings where they can decompress. Both boys and girls respond well to pale pink—Benjamin Moore’s Pinky Swear is a good choice—or other tranquil hues, such as pale blue, soft green or muted purple. Avoid borders, stripes, patterns and prints, which can overstimulate, and limit your use of primary colours to lightweight toys that can be easily stored away out of sight. Pick a paint that’s low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), like Benjamin Moore Natura Waterborne zero-VOC paint, which is both allergy- and asthma-friendly.
Clutter and mess can create anxiety in kids with autism. Using storage solutions that keep playthings out of sight eliminates the visual chaos that can be so stressful. Ikea’s TROFAST storage combination comes with lightweight plastic boxes perfect for storing toys and games. For special items that your child wants to keep out in the open, consider a well-designed display system where they can arrange and observe a few beloved objects, such as the Babyletto Spruce Tree Bookcase.
Children with autism can be sensitive to bright lights, particularly fluorescent lights and over-abundant sunlight. Soft, natural lighting is best during the day, but in the evening, darker is better in the bedroom. For those who are sensitive to the light outside their windows from street lamps and cars, blackout curtains can be a good idea. Adding dimmer switches to the main lighting allows for a slow and easy transition from light to dark. For children who don’t like total darkness, Marquee-style nightlights, lamps and customizable LED letter lightboxes, such as My Cinema Lightbox, help take some of the worry out of saying goodnight.
When you’re shopping for bedding, consider texture. Use your child’s favourite piece of clothing as a guide: Is it cotton or flannel? Soft or rough? Whatever type of fabric they like to wear is probably what they will like on their bed. Compression bed sheets stretch over your kid’s body and give deep pressure that can soothe children who have a tough time unwinding, relaxing and calming their bodies for sleep. A heavier comforter, down-filled duvet or weighted blanket, such as this microplush one from Gravid, provide hug-like pressure that can make a child feel secure.
A cocoon of one’s own
For some children, cocooning is crucial to relaxation. A sensory swing is a great way to calm a child with autism and even, sometimes, put them to sleep. Hammock or pod-type swings, such as the JOKI hanging nest swing, offer a cozy nest where children can seek refuge. The inflatable Sensory Pea Pod sits on the ground and it’s great for kids with sensory processing issues who crave deep pressure to calm down and focus. Most children three years and up can get in and out of the pod themselves, but younger children would require supervision. The pod serves as a safe space to retreat for a kid who’s feeling overwhelmed, or as a place to get a comforting all-over hug while playing video games or watching TV.