In today’s article, we will explore how we can structure and design bathrooms that are accessible for children with special needs.
Design for Access
Source: Sledd, M. (2017). Home Remodeling for People with Disabilities: What You Need to Know. Expertise. Taken from https://www.expertise.com/remodeling/home-remodeling-for-disability-and-special-needs
The core element of designing the bathroom for special needs children is to simply make the bathroom easier to access for special needs children. The easy accessibility for special needs children to use the bathroom is necessary to prevent any collision with the walls, the sink, the shower or the toilet once the children enter the bathroom.
Children with physical disabilities who use wheelchairs, crutches or walkers are required to have sufficient space for their movement aids as those walking aids take up quite a hefty amount of space. Parents should prioritize the entrance and passageways to the bathroom as these areas are where the children are entering the bathroom from. From there, it is recommended to shuffle the existing fittings around in order to have more space for those with wheelchairs. Parents can consider customizing space to fit the size of the wheelchair by rebuilding on a smaller sink.
Source: Special Needs Shower. benhacheyflooring, Taken from https://benhacheyflooring.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/30890_398366373903_150115218903_3970868_5494154_n/
Any bathroom for special needs children needs to be as step-free as possible especially within the showers. This means the bathroom should require less movement to navigate the whole bathroom. With that, children with physical disabilities are able to access the bathroom easier. For children with autism spectrum disorder who want to use the bathroom, they will perceive that easier access means they can arrive at the bathroom faster, thus preventing any aggression from happening within the bathroom spectrum.
In building a new shower, both parents and constructors have to consider the waterproof factor of the shower to prevent any risk of slips. As for existing showers, parents can look into putting an anti-slip coating to prevent slipping incidents. Additionally, parents can considered installing a special shower seat that can be folded up when not in use. The shower seat provides comfort and support for children with physical disabilities to maintain their posture when they go for a shower.
Anti-Slip Waterproof Mats
For those with lower budgets, parents can also consider buying anti-slip waterproof mats for the entire floor in the bathroom - from the shower to the sink. These anti-slip mats provide grip to the legs for easier maneuverability and can prevent slips.
Source: Bryne, S. (2015). Why you need grab bars in the bathroom. Consumer Reports on Health. Taken from https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2015/01/why-you-need-grab-bars-in-your-bathroom/index.htm
Another important accessory required for the safety of the special needs children when using the bathroom is the grab bars. Grab bars are necessary to support children’s maneuverability and to support children with physical disabilities who might have difficulties standing up when they shower.
Children with special needs might have a hard time using the toilet for potty training due to issues with the bone structure or imbalanced postural strength.Therefore, the toilet should be adjusted higher to provide additional mobility. To improve support for children struggling to maintain their posture, parents can install grab bars on the toilet. These grab bars, in comparison to the ones in the shower, are shorter and can be installed on either side of the toilet. The grab bars give nice posture support for the children to sit on the toilet seat, enabling easier and smoother potty training.
Basin and Vanity
Source: Jewell, N. (2017). Clever bath vanity design helps give special needs child more independence. Inhabitat; Taken from https://inhabitat.com/clever-bath-vanity-designed-for-a-child-with-special-needs/
A challenge for children with special needs is that they might not be able to stand up properly so they face difficulty in reaching the sink. One solution is to lower the sink depending on the child’s height.
Meanwhile, to accommodate special needs children with a wheelchair, the basin and the vanity should be adjusted in width and length, especially for access under the sink to provide space for a wheelchair to roll under.
For the sink, pull and push water taps are more convenient and easier for children with special needs. The distance between the child and the taps should be taken into consideration.
The mirror should be positioned such that the children can see their reflection properly, especially for tidying up purposes and to see their teeth during dental practice. The material for the mirror needs to ensure a clear view and can reflect light well.
Bathtub is sometimes preferred by some parents for their children’s but it can pose a danger to children with special needs. Typically, bathtubs have walls on all sides, making it difficult for special needs children to enter and exit the bathtub. This also pose a risk for slipping due to the child’s instability in their movement. An alternative that is more suitable is a walk-in tub.
Walk in Tub
Source: 9 Tips For Making A Special Needs Friendly Bathroom. Friendship Circle Michigan; Taken from https://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2013/01/25/9-tips-for-making-a-special-needs-friendly-bathroom/
Source: New Bath Walk-In Tubs (https://newbathwalkintubs.com/why-new-bath/)
The walk-in tub has a special door designed to allow access into a seat inside the bathtub. Once the door is closed, the bath becomes a watertight capsule and can allow bathing from a seated position. A bath with an outward opening door requires clear space to swing open, but the door with an inward opening tub will not open while the tub is filled with water.
One problem with the walk-in tub is some in emergency situations, the door might get stuck when trying to open or close it and this poses a risk in drowning. If the house does not have a walk-in tub built in the house, there should be grab bars carefully placed on the walls near the regular bath tub.
Visual Schedule or Social Story
Source: Potty Training A Child With Special Needs (2018). The Autism Mom; Taken from https://autismmomsblog.com/2018/09/02/potty-training-a-child-with-special-needs/
Parents can also consider putting up a visual schedule or social story to help their children learn procedures for toilet activities. The visual schedule or social story contains graphics and pictures that will intrigue the children to follow instructions or the story. Each photo, picture or graphics used in the schedule are arranged like a story or instructions and describe the children’s step-by-step activities inside the bathroom.
Source: Pictures of Kids Bathroom Decor Ideas. Shelterness; Taken from https://www.shelterness.com/15-cute-kids-bathroom-decor-ideas/pictures/10359/
Source: Bailly, S. (2020). Unique Kids Bathroom Decor Ideas. Amazadesign; Taken from https://www.amazadesign.com/unique-kids-bathroom-decor-ideas/
The bathroom should be aesthetically pleasing to encourage children with special needs to spend time in the bathroom. Using a very dark tone such as dark blue and grey could make the children less excited to enter the bathroom. A brighter color tone will provide a positive energy for the children. Thus, choose a color that is not too dark or too bright (to prevent overstimulation). Aqua and pink are recommended colors to be used.
Some research has shown a correlation between color and human emotion. Shades of blue and white creates a fresh and positive feeling inside the bathroom while red might invoke feelings of anger and aggressiveness.