I may not know a whole lot or be able to imagine what children who deal with sensory challenges such as autism spectrum go through, or the adjustments to the home or lifestyle that their parents need to make for their child’s safety.
But after Danny Knight, a daddy who blogs on Fix It Dads, got in touch with me recently with some great tips on what parents can do to create a safe space for ASD kids at home – I now know that for the simplest things that we often take for granted in life (such as how the bedroom is laid out), there are a lot of factors that need to be accounted for when it comes to children with ASD.
Here are some things parents can do to to make their home safe and soothing for an ASD child.
Start in the bedroom
Your child’s bedroom is their space. It’s where they can go to get away from the sights and sounds that overload their active minds. Walls should be a low key colour and sparsely decorated. As much as possible, go for cool and neutral colours, such as shades of green, blue, or brown.
Keep clutter to a minimum and pay special attention to the flooring. If your home has hardwood floors, take steps to ensure squeaks and creaks are limited. Or, if your child prefers the comforting feel of a plush carpet, invest in a room-sized rug and carpet pad, which will serve the additional purpose of muffling sounds.
Create a private retreat where your child can relax with a light-blocking bed tent and weighted sensory blanket. Simplicity is the key throughout the home, but especially in the bedroom.
Have the right light
Natural light is always best but it isn’t always an option.
If your home’s windows aren’t conducive to a bright and cheery environment, consider replacing your outdated light bulbs with incandescent bulbs labeled Full-Spectrum, Daylight, or Reveal.
Some LED lights can also offer the same feel as sunlight. Avoid fluorescent bulbs, which distort colours and can flash and flicker as their power begins to fade.
Around the house
The Autism Society asserts that, in addition to the child’s bedroom, the kitchen, backyard, and leisure areas should be modified to best suit his or her individual needs. These priority areas should be arranged in a way that “makes sense” for the activities expected to take place in the room.
Avoid excess knickknacks and install door and window alarms if your child tends to wander. In the kitchen, drawers and cabinets should be locked to prevent exposure to potentially harmful chemicals and sharp knives.
Many autistic children benefit from visual signs and labels that outline where they are allowed to go and where they are not. Secure all appliances and bookshelves and install covers on exposed electrical outlets.
Depending on how your child’s autism presents, he or she may react differently than other children on the spectrum. Pay close attention to his or her unique triggers and remove as many as possible from the home.
Things you may not even consider, such as decorative pillows on the sofa, may be overwhelming. Your child may not be able to communicate what, exactly, is bothering him or her. Get down on their level and look at your home from their point-of-view.
Identification and safety intervention
Your ASD child may not have the ability to communicate with others in case of an emergency.
When they are away from home, they are vulnerable and may need a helping hand when yours are out of reach. If possible, have your child wear a medical ID bracelet or carry an identification
card with them at all times.
Other safety intervention techniques include reinforcing appropriate behavior and providing consistent consequences for actions that can put your child (or others) in danger.
As a parent, your child’s environment is one of your top priorities. And while having a child on the spectrum comes with specific challenges where home decor is concerned, it isn’t difficult to create a living space that keeps your entire family safe and secure.