Sensory-Sensitive Bedroom Design for Kids on the Autism Spectrum
Every kid needs a safe space in the home, a room that’s all theirs. However, the bedroom designs that neurotypical kids enjoy don’t always work for children on the autism spectrum. Due to unique sensory needs, parents must take extra care when designing a bedroom for a child with autism.
Not all children on the autism spectrum are sensory-sensitive, but many are. For those kids, the bright colors and piles of toys that other kids love are often overwhelming. This guide will help you design a relaxing kids’ bedroom that puts your child’s sensory needs first.
Full-spectrum lighting is recommended for children with autism. In the daytime, this is easily accomplished with natural sunlight filtering through the windows. After dark, full-spectrum light bulbs mimic natural light. You can find full-spectrum LED or CFL light bulbs in your local hardware store.
Avoid creating harsh glares by using light-filtering curtains over windows and shades over light bulbs. Consider installing a dimmer switch to dim lighting near bedtime when you want your child to relax.
Most interior designers will tell you to choose calming colors for the bedroom, as bright colors are energizing. For children with autism, this effect is amplified. Because vivid hues are so stimulating, it’s important to choose low-intensity colors for bedroom walls and furnishings — think soft matte blues, grays, and creams. If your child wants a fun color, look for a pale, muted, or earthy shade of their favorite color.
Carpet tiles are a perfect pick for an ASD child’s bedroom. Not only are carpet tiles soft and quiet underfoot, but they also offer an easy fix to the inevitable childhood spills. Instead of replacing the entire carpet or rearranging furniture to cover a stain, you can simply swap out the damaged carpet tile for a new one.
Carpet is often made with toxic chemicals. While many people aren’t bothered by this, a child on the spectrum may be sensitive to chemical odors, especially if they have asthma or allergies. When buying flooring, choose natural fiber carpeting that hasn’t been treated with toxic chemicals.
Furniture for any child’s bedroom should be durable and easy to clean, but that’s not the only consideration when your child has autism. You also want to avoid reflective and high-gloss surfaces, especially if your child is light-sensitive, and avoid sharp edges for kids with motor control issues.
Furniture is a great noise reduction tool for children hypersensitive to sound. By placing heavy furniture like dressers against shared walls, you can reduce the amount of outside noise that filters into the child’s bedroom.
Organization and Decor
It’s important to keep bedroom décor simple to avoid over-stimulating your child with a visually-busy environment. However, that doesn’t mean your child’s bedroom needs to feel Spartan. Rather, it’s a matter of organization.
Instead of keeping toys out where they’re visible, organize toys and games in bins. Fabric storage bins in a soft color make for a visually-calming space without restricting access. When decorating, stick to one or two pictures per wall and choose soothing designs and images of nature for your child’s sleeping area.
ADA Standards and Your Child’s Bedroom
The building standards established by the Americans with Disabilities Act don’t apply to renovations in private residences. However, they may offer valuable guidance as you remodel your child’s bedroom. For example, the handrails and grab bars mandated by the ADA also help a child who has balance and body awareness issues, common in kids with autism, and keeping thresholds under ½-inch high is a smart move for kids with a shuffling gait. Learn more about implementing ADA standards in your home here.
Not all children with autism share the same sensory needs and preferences. While this guide provides general advice on designing a bedroom for a child with autism, the most important thing is to pay attention to your child’s specific needs. By pairing our advice with your child’s unique personality, you can design a bedroom that everyone loves.
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About the Author
Jenny Wise is a homeschooling mom to four children. She created Special Home Educator as a forum for sharing her adventures in homeschooling and connecting with other homeschooling families.