Rooms for the Special Ones Series Part 1: Sweet Dreams for the Special Ones
A house is a necessity for every family in order to shelter themselves from nature. It also becomes a suitable place for families to spend quality time together enjoying play with each other, helping to cook and others. However, having special needs children makes it more difficult for parents to build a perfect home for all, especially when there are specific limitations that need to be considered in selecting the best design possible for their home. In fact, special needs children specifically need rehabilitation in their own home for a specific amount of time from their acute phase instantaneously following recognition of a health condition through the maintenance phases. Rehabilitation is crucial in identifying the needs and problems of the children and connecting those problems to significant factors of person and environment, defining its objective, planning and implementing methods and measures and evaluating the results. Freedom, independence and security are essential keys in house accessibility for the disabled as each element plays their part in making the house comfortable for the disabled to live in.
There’s nothing as important to the children’s comfort in their home as much as the bedroom. The bedroom plays its part in providing any children with the comfort of learning something new, play and relaxing on their beds. However, when it comes to parents with special children, there are some tips they can utilize in decorating and arranging furniture and kids’ belongings to fulfill their special needs children’s accessibility.
For children with physical disabilities, accessibility is the key to the preferable room for children with physical disabilities. Parents need to plan their physically disabled children’s bedroom so that the children are able to reach their shelves, closets and drawers and maneuver around the room easier.
There are some common sense adjustments parents should utilize in fulfilling the accessibility requirements.
The room should include long, horizontal shelves instead of tall, vertical characteristics to store books and toys for children to be easier to take.
If the children have difficulty with door knobs, replacing traditional knobs with door levers. However, if the children have difficulty using levers, consider placing the door on swing hinges to make it easier for children to push the door or even building a pocket door.
Room planners need to ensure that the light switches should be moved down to a level your physically disabled child can reach or consider motion sensor light as well for easier access for when they are able to turn off or on the lights.
For any children who were bound by a wheelchair due to their disability, their parents need to ensure that they can move easily around the room and when they enter and exit. This can be done by ensuring that the bedroom door must not block the access to the room while swinging open. Meanwhile, tables and desks inside the bedroom need to be tall and deep enough to fit their wheelchairs and for comfort. Children with wheelchairs usually do not have much space to sit beneath the table so they need to ensure that they can fit comfortably to sit. Adjustable legs on the table is also recommended to adjust in providing comfort to children while sitting.
In addition, the overall size of the furniture needs to be suitable for the children’s accessibility. For example, the children’s bed size needs to fit the wheelchair when the child is entering his or her room so that the bed would not budge with the door beside the bed if the bed is placed that way. Also, there should be a compartment which has sufficient enough space in order to fit the wheelchair or cane that the children used. For example, a special drawer to store the wheelchairs and canes they have.
Children with visual impairments will have a lot of difficulty navigating the whole bedroom because of their impairments in their sight ability. For example, complications about the color of the entire room which will make navigating the whole bedroom difficult. Therefore, some of the ways to alleviate this problem are:
Organize the room in reducing the clutter to help the children navigate the space a lot easier. The example below is NOT the room preferable for the visually impaired children due to the room being too cluttered.
The bed should be set in a direct path to the door as the visually impaired children are able to navigate through the bed and to prevent any potential slip ups when entering the bed room.
Furthermore, parents should recommend to stick to wall-to-wall floor coverings to avoid curling corners that can catch at feet from an area rug.
In terms of putting towels or other items to hang on the door, parents should hang some hooks on the back of the door at shoulder height, suitable for children to pick up items.
As for the overall room layout, the room needs to be arranged so that there is a natural place for everything that your child can learn to navigate over time. For example, bright vibrant color tone for easy detection of senses inside the bedroom.
While at it, parents can add some tactile elements to the children’s room like furry throw pillows or velvet drapes so that the children will enjoy the decorations in any way they can.
Different challenges might be faced when it comes to customizing the bedroom for autism spectrum disorder children. Unlike visually impaired which focuses on trying to ensure the bedroom does not affect the child’s vision disability and physically impaired, where the purpose is to improve accessibility and comfort for children who has to rely on wheelchairs and canes, the characteristics of bedroom suitable for autistic children is quite complex as their psychology also plays a pivotal part in design. In fact, ranging from 40% to 80% of children with autism experience difficulties with sleep, making the bedroom a critical part of houses to ensure autistic children are comfortable to experience.
Creating a Peaceful Vibe
The first element of building a base for the bedroom layout for ASD Children is to provide the environment where it is peaceful and quiet to avoid any overreaction from the children. Autistic children have a tendency of sensory overload otherwise known as sensory processing disorder (SPD). Thus, children with evidence of sensory processing dysfunction often have challenges in regulating responses to sensations and specific stimuli and may use self-stimulation to compensate for limited sensory input or to avoid overstimulation.
Thus, the bedroom needs to include zones created based on purposes separated by play, sleep, work, and storage purposes to contain the potential chaos and further identify behavioral expectations of the children. The same way of room layout as for the physically disabled and visually impaired, reducing the risk of cluttering toys will decrease the risk of the children to be overstimulated.
One way to reduce the toys clutter is to have a storage space which can be sorted by clear stackable drawers labeled with pictures, symbols, or words according to your child’s needs. Furthermore, storage drawers need to be simple to reduce cleaning up work and accessing materials easier. Examples of preferable storage spaces include soft-side cubes, underbed storage drawers, locked closet and swoop bags.
Lighting in the children’s bedroom can also affect the reaction towards the autistic children. According to a research, bright light affects the individual’s mood and behavior. Therefore, to ensure calmness for autistic children in their bedroom, consider the following ideas for lighting like blackout shades or curtains, red-hued night lights, carpeting used to reduce glare from outside light but need to be allergy free and not absorb dust excessively and desk or floor lamps near work areas for precise position of light ray not to interfere with the children.
Functional Accessories and Furnitures
The bedroom can pose a risk for autistic children if the house is nearby either a construction site or a busy road. Any noise or loud sound coming from outside sources like a sudden honk, a distant television, tumbling dryer, and the hum of nearby traffic could interrupt the autistic children and can change their behavior erratically. Therefore, to prevent them from happening, there are functioning accessories and furniture that can help in preventing the children from becoming overwhelmed and stimulated. Examples of those furnitures and accessories that can be utilized are noise-canceling headphones, preferred stim toys for stimulating the children’s brain to relax and fidget tools.
White noise device can also be used to reduce the outside noise which can irritate the children by producing calm noises like rushing waterfalls or wind blowing through. The soothing sounds produced by the device will decrease the risk of overreacting to outside sounds when used properly.
Moreover, smart alarm clocks can also be used to alert the children easier with reducing noise functionality. This Mella Smart Alarm Clock for example not has a cute design preferable for children, but also this alarm clock also has functionalities of sleep sounds machine, night light and a nap timer, making the alarm clock one of the most competitive in the market today.
Climbing mats, beanbag chairs and trampolines can also be used for sensory integration as a way to improve the coordination and motor skills of children.
A multi-tasking bedroom for autistic children requires the perfect chair and table for autistic children to comfortably sit on. Comfort and prevention from outside factors are the required factors in selecting the perfect chair and table for autistic children. The perfect seating can include a kid-size table/desk and chair set to allow for tabletop play, coloring, and drawing. Plus, in order to prevent any crash within the seating, consider a soft place to crash on and an active seating option like a t-stool, ball chair, or small rocking chair that will allow movement for the autistic children.
As mentioned earlier, the bedroom plays a pivotal role in rehabilitation for autistic children in ensuring sufficient rest for the autistic children to prevent them from overreaction. The main component in doing so is the bed and mattress itself as that is the place where children are resting. The bed plays an important role for the children’s sensory preferences.
In ensuring a comfortable sleep for the autistic children, firstly, the blanket or mattress needs to be made ofthe suitable material that is soft and snuggly, suitable for the autistic children. Examples of materials can be from cotton, flannel, sateen, or t-shirt materials. Just to ensure that the children are not allergic to the materials selected as this will cause other unnecessary problems in the long run if the children have allergies towards the material.
Moreover, weighted blankets and heavy down comforters provide extra protection from noises from outside and give extra comfort to the children. The blankets and comforters is helpful in support consistent sleep patterns because they provide deep touch pressure sensory input that enables the stimulus system of the child to relax better.
Furthermore, in order to calm the senses for the autistic children, the patterns and prints on the bedding need to be fun for the children to look at but not too overly stimulating. For example, simplistic animal designs all over the bed sheets and blankets with a calm blue color tone.
Not only that, there should be a sensory deprivation area set up on the bed to reduce the risk of their senses to be overreacting. Making the autistic children calm and in control requires comfort to prevent overreaction so sensory deprivation area is necessary to reduce the overreaction effect. Examples of sensory deprivation areas that can be utilized include a bed tent, a tee-pee in the corner, or a canopy over a pile of soft pillows.
As for the mattress, it also gives effect towards generating the children’s interests in relaxing on their bed. Memory foam, spring, or hybrid mattresses all offer different sensory experiences but they all play their own part in providing comfort to the children during bedtime. However, if the autistic child has difficulty sleeping or prone to play with the bed, a hybrid mattress perhaps can be considered for a less alerting and more forgiving surface.
Create Distinct Space
Autistic children tend to be familiarized with the same type of environment as constant changes towards what they learn or familiarized with could lead them to temperament and hard to control their behavior. The sense of familiarity within autistic children can help them to cope with sudden changes. Therefore, the room should be focused on doing basic tasks in its own familiar space. The bedroom should have a distraction-free zone set up in order for uninterrupted time for the children or study. In order to efficiently do so, a special area should be set up in order for the children to escape stimulation from outside factors. For instance, a special area for the children to play LEGOs.
Color Scheme for the Bedroom
Finally, the right color scheme for the bedroom overall could drastically change how the autistic children will behave in the long run by affecting the stimulation of autistic children. Thus, rainbow colors or any colors that are too bright and vibrant are usually not the preferable choice for the room’s color scheme. Psychological factors need to be considered in selecting the best color scheme for the room. For instance, the yellow color is most likely to cause autistic children to cause eye strain and visual fatigue. In ensuring the right color tone, look for a peaceful shade of blue, green or purple and neutral tone colors like black, grey and brown to be used for the room. As for adjusting the light and visual sensitivity, we can use darker hue colors like navy and soft blue to absorb more light instead of reflecting it. Avoid any overstimulating colors like white, yellow and red as well as abundance of shapes and patterns on the scheme like on the mattress, blanket, wall and others.
In conclusion, as parents, they should be responsible for planning the room design for their autistic children. This requires thorough thinking in selecting the characteristics of the bedroom for their autistic children. In order to achieve the maximum efficiency results, they need to seek a professional house designer for enquiries on designing the best bedroom.With the right design, color scheme, furniture, decorations and functions, the bedroom will be enjoyable for the children, thus reducing the risk of overexposure to elements that will hinder the development of their children like noises from outside. Hopefully that all of the tips given will assist in making the bedroom a space for the children to explore something new to learn and thus, transforming the autistic children to become more independent and prepare for the outside world better.
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