Every parent needs to discipline their child irrespective of whether they are autistic or not. However, when the child is autistic, there are necessary steps that need to be taken to ensure the child is on the right track.
Having an environment with autism-awareness in mind goes a long way in ensuring the safety of autistic children. Environment planning further helps to ensure that your child thrives in a secure environment.
This guide is designed to help you integrate the necessary modifications to your home environment and daily lives while discussing important steps. From the kitchen area to the bedroom to the most common areas of a household—everything is covered in this self-help book.
However, it should be noted that every situation is unique, and families may require different levels of updates and upgrades depending on one’s needs. The specific needs and abilities of individual children need to be taken into consideration.
If you believe the symptoms of your autistic children are too severe and you feel there is a need for external help, consulting a behavioral therapist or a pediatrician is an advisable step to ensure you receive personalized attention for your case.
The bedroom is the most important and logical step, to begin with since it is a place where the child spends most of his/her time.
Let us begin with considering the bedroom décor.
Sensory overloads are trademark symptoms of autism disorder. These disorders can end up causing difficulties that hinder relaxation, focus, or basic necessary functions. Thus, as the first step, it is highly advisable and crucial to design the bedroom of the child to be calm. As the age-old saying goes, “The simpler, the better!”
So how do you ensure you have ticked the necessary points?
Start with a careful selection of colors and ensure the right color theme is selected. For instance, you can experiment with different colors such as light purple, blue or green depending on your personal choice.
However, ensure that it is not too glossy or shiny. Further, have neutral tones like black or brown to ensure serenity of the room.
Sometimes, some children are oversensitive to colors. In these situations, going with normal beige or tan might work out as a good option.
It is always a good practice to avoid colors such as bright red, dark yellow or white, as these are seen to be overstimulating.
Going for patterned textures should be strictly avoided as observations have been made that textured colors can take a toll on autistic children.
It is always good to stay with solid colors.
Avoid additional decorations in your child’s room. If you find it too difficult to avoid, another viable option is to limit the use of decorations.
As a rule of thumb, you can stick to one item of decoration per wall if you find yourself unable to sacrifice the use of decorations.
Further, ensure these fancy decorative items are out of children’s direct reach and have them placed securely. It is also a good practice to have flat frames instead of the widely-used shadow boxes.
Shadow boxes are seen to pose a threat and can end up being hazardous.
Additionally, it is a good practice to ensure the theme of the room is selected through investing time. Ensure you have the best natural landscapes redefining the abstract art with a blend of spirals and soft curves. These are seen to be the most soothing tools when it comes to designing a calm environment.
If you are considering buying new pieces of artwork for your child’s room upgrade, it is good to have him/her involved in the process of selection. Children are the best judges when it comes to having their own set of accessories and it will also help you gauge their interest for a specific item.
The more they fall in love with something, the better their response to their surroundings.
Have your selections carefully noted and try to procure furniture that blends in with your newly created environment. Opt for wood-based furniture in place of other furniture material as wood is a decent sensory-friendly material.
Caution needs to be exercised when dealing with glass or metal-based furniture; consider having them replaced immediately.
Shattered glass is hazardous and metals can lead to serious injuries. A simple precautionary step such as having rounded-corner furniture is another way to keep hassles at bay.
If you do not have rounded furniture, do not worry. There are simple proven techniques to help you soften the edges and the corners. It is easy to have these materials removed.
However, when done, look out for the pieces hanging out as some autistic children love chewing things. Being observant is always a proven way to ensure safety for your children.
Lighting is an important factor that has to be given priority. Natural light is an important factor that helps enhance the focus and mood of an individual. Maximizing sunlight through proper ventilation should be a priority.
Autistic individuals are known to have sleep issues, thus it is crucial to ensure proper window ventilation.
Having carefully designed ventilation helps in keeping the purview of streetlights and glaring headlights from outside traffic to a minimum.
If you have difficulty modifying the environment to make it soundproofed, it is a good consideration to get black-out curtains.
Black-out curtains are best when it comes to soundproofing your children’s room.
For additional lighting requirements, use the advanced LED bulbs to ensure you have a pleasant lighting environment for your autistic children.
It should be noted that fluorescent lights should always be avoided as they are high energy guzzlers and give out varying frequencies at different times. Fluorescent lights should never find their way into autism-aware houses. These lights are too disorienting, and at times, use of these lights forces young gullible children to seek an alternative place to enjoy activities.
Thus, the creation of autism-aware environments must be carefully planned and executed.
Dimmer switches too are excellent tools when it comes to controlling lighting requirements. Some might argue shirts, towels and other fabrics can also be used safely for brightness adjustments, but these are short-term solutions.
It is good to consider longer and more viable solutions such as dimmer switches.
However, if your child has limited mobility, get hand-held lights to ensure their needs are met without much hassle.
Exercise precaution when you have guests at home as these useful dimmer switches look like toys and other children might end up causing unintentional damage. These useful tools need to be used with care.
Although having an organized room is critical, never overthink or overdo it. Simplicity is always the key to ensuring a worry-free environment.
If you are worried about how the organization takes place, start by following these steps:
- Have your/your children’s bedroom divided into zones.
- Allocate specific functions to each zone.
- Modify as per the intended function of the block.
For instance, a room is divided to carry out an intended function such as sleeping, learning and playing.
The sleeping zone is ideally equipped with a bed to help its occupant have a peaceful sleep. The play zone, on the other hand, can be a small area designated to have the game-chest stored and for playing small activity-based games.
A study area may include a study desk and a chair. You can imagine how easily you can end up with an environment that will help your child perform better.
You should always ensure that you are working on concepts like these and creating a themed environment that outlines the necessities.
After you have completed these steps, maintaining tidiness is an essential next step to ensuring the longevity of your efforts. Keep things labeled and clutter-free.
Maintenance is an ongoing activity and needs to be allocated time to ensure you are right on track every time without being an unintentional victim to cluttered distractions.
Have you taken note of your flooring?
Well, it’s a good time to make sure your flooring is well-defined to make it soundproof and absorption-proof.
For instance, low-pile carpets are a great way to offer great soundproofing environments with limited impediments to existing mobility issues.
Autistic kids are seen to prefer smooth surfaces in comparison to carpets. However, this can be worked around by ensuring laminated floors are in place that offers smoother and cleaner surfaces. These laminated floors also minimize unwanted, distracting noise, though this depends on the material that you have selected and the dimensions of the room in question.
A good step is to have a conversation with your pediatrician to ensure you have ticked the necessary items on the checklist.
Safety is an important step and should never be compromised. By taking the above-highlighted steps, you have made a serious decision to have your environment modified to your child’s needs.
It is a good practice to have an audit list of your electronic appliances. Always verify they are stored in appropriate condition and are in good shape. If you find any cord hangings or other electrical outlets that seem to be worn out, have them replaced.
- Check your windows and get childproof locks installed.
- Remove locks, if any, from your children’s room.
- Limit hazardous materials that could be tripped over.
Have smoke detectors installed in the bedroom of your child and always stay vigilant in making sure your loved one has a serene environment in which to thrive.
A bathroom is an important place that needs to be sound absorbent. Bathrooms are seen to have tiles that noise-amplify, in addition to other noise generators such as bathtubs and toilets.
A good way to ensure that the room stays free from noise is to double your towel storage boxes to ensure they act as noise-control tools.
Have exhaust fans and eliminate heat sinks completely from your bathroom. It should be noted, even if these things seem negligible to you, for autistic children, they are not.
Thus, replacing the flooring or any wall that doesn’t suit the requirement of an autism-aware environment is worth the investment. If you are worried about being unable to modify your bathroom due to external situations, do not worry. There are other ways to increase the safety of the floor while also ensuring the noise is reduced.
For instance, having non-slip rubber material on the floor is a simple and economical solution that will work effectively across different situations. To absorb noise, place additional bathmats on the floor.
These small but effective strategies help you keep your environment clutter-free.
Non-slip mats are must-have tools and must be carefully placed inside the shower-tub or the bathtub.
It should always be noted that the real challenge the bathroom poses to autistic children with sensory issues is a comfort. Bathrooms are cold, which makes it harder for children on the spectrum. Having necessary gear in place, such as cushioned toilet seats, helps to neutralize these undesirable conditions.
For instance, your child might not always be in a position to leave the bathroom the moment he/she experiences overloads. Helping them by having necessary objects in place to provide sensory engagement can ensure better responses.
Safety railings are another important aspect that needs to be given priority to help you design the bathroom according to your child’s needs. Make sure they are equipped with an easy grip to assist the child in times of emergency. However, it should be noted that if they are not placed correctly, they can end up being more dangerous than helpful.
Children love spending time in the kitchen. Having an organized kitchen that suits well to the child’s needs is equally important.
To begin with, ensure the kitchen is organized neatly and that all items are properly stored. Make sure the storage spaces are clutter-free.
Have proper cabinets installed to ensure the utensils and plates are properly tucked away! Having well-defined, non-transparent kitchen cabinet drawers are a sure way to help you in your autism-friendly environment journey.
At times, when children walk into the kitchen, seeing too many things inside can be exciting and overwhelming. The greater goal should always be to limit the stimulations a child could feel to the widest possible extent.
Ask the child to extend his/her hand in helping you with your kitchen activities. Even if he/she is not ready, it is important for you to guide them.
These small day-to-day activities help your child in building his/her future skills.
Creating labels across your kitchen is also a helpful activity. For instance:
You could also utilize another set of simple labels that point out the location of bowls and cups, whereas other labels that highlight the inside contents in a refrigerator can also be considered.
It is also good to have warning labels, such as “HOT,” with a warning picture highlighting the dangers.
Kids are seen to benefit from important checklists every time they feel the need to use the kitchen.
Make the entire family accountable for their actions, ensuring you are awarded timely breaks. Building an autism-friendly home should be executed as a team effort.
If you have other kids who are not autistic, speak to them and explain things to them about their autistic sibling’s sensitive issues.
A perfect world would look much different than reality, with a house that is neatly organized and free of clutter without effort involved. However, the reality is far from perfect.
There are things that pose a far greater challenge for your autism-friendly environment—common areas being one among these. Thus, you need to focus your time on finding solutions to underlying problems while controlling generic activities.
Make necessary adjustments whenever you see possible opportunities to ensure you are creating a better place for the child and the family.
For instance, if you see the television noise is directly traveling to your child’s bedroom, you can consider different solutions to remove the problematic noise.
- Moving the TV to a different place
- Establishing quiet hours
Always practice getting input from your children. It helps you as well as the child to ensure you have better autism-friendly protocols in place.
It might not always be possible for you to establish exactly what your children want. However, by communicating with them often, you can learn their likes/dislikes which can be equally helpful in your decision-making.
Speak to your family and take some time to help them adjust to the new environment/organizational changes. Practice a good amount of patience. Always remember, the progress could be gradual, but the end results can be extraordinary and will always be worth the effort.