Ah, the excitement of designing a bedroom. Does anything compare? For those with children on the autism spectrum however, this may seem like an overwhelming or daunting task.
Statistics show that there are around 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK alone. Roughly resulting in 1 in 100 individuals, autism may be more common than you think. For those with an autism spectrum disorder, certain colours, lights, sounds and even materials may trigger a sensory overload that could result in meltdowns or cause other unpleasant reactions. In order to create a safe sleeping space for an autistic child, you must adhere to their specific needs.
In this post, I will be outlining some ways you can design a safe bedroom for a child on the autism spectrum.
Saturation and Illumination
Choosing the right colours is pivotal in autism bedroom design. We know that certain colours can affect our mood in different ways and this is especially true for autistic individuals. For example, yellows, oranges and jarring whites can be overstimulating and cause severe stress.
As we are designing a safe space, it’s best to instead focus on calming tones. Navy, soft blues, greys, lavender, purples, browns and blacks can all be considered comforting.
In terms of lighting, sunlight is the best option for daytime and softer lights are better at night. Blackout blinds are recommended for those days in which the natural light is extremely bright.
When the sun sets and the night draws in, dimmer switches can be useful for ensuring artificial lighting in their bedrooms isn’t too harsh. If you’re considering the colour of your child’s light, it may be worth checking out bulbs that offer colour control, so you can help make their room unique to them and their needs.
To Bed or Not to Bed?
What is the best bed for an autistic child? Whilst there’s no definitive answer, it may be worth checking out products that are a little unorthodox.
Sensory tents, for example, can be an excellent way to provide your child with a safe space to sleep and retreat to if things are getting too overwhelming. Whilst this is by no means the de facto standard for every autistic child, it could be a welcome addition to their bedroom. However, each child is obviously different and has their own distinctive requirements, so opting for a more traditional approach may suffice, depending on the child in question.
For bedding, consider the texture of the fabrics. This will heavily rely on your little one’s personal preferences, so be sure to involve them in the buying process.
Weighted blankets have become popular recently as they are calming and can help relieve stress, much like a warm hug! It’s recommended that you seek professional advice beforehand however, as in some cases you will be prescribed a blanket that will be ideal for their specific needs.
Springs and Fillings
Choosing the right mattress for your child once again comes down to personal preference. Whilst some may favour the luxurious comfort of memory foam, others may find the material to cause a sinking sensation. If your little sleeper is prone to being restless, they may prefer a hybrid mattress.
If it’s maximum support, even weight distribution and optimum comfort you’re looking for, an orthopaedic mattress could make for a fantastic choice for your child. What’s more, they’re available in a range of sizes and fillings so you can pick the one to suit them.
Comfort Zones and Organisation
Firstly, what do we mean by zones and organisation, exactly? Well, it’s all about keeping their bedroom clean and tidy, with as little clutter as possible (a known trigger of anxiety in autistic children). Ensure that their rooms have plenty of organised storage boxes that are clearly labelled in an easy to read font, or an image so they can clearly identify what’s what.
Different zones can be used to add a further level of structure into their bedrooms. If size allows it, a separate zone for sleeping, playing and learning could be a simple yet effective way of dividing their floor space.
So, you’ve got the basics sorted. But what else do you need to help create the safest of spaces for your young one? Further additions can include sensory swings or hammocks, a white noise machine, natural landscape photographs or maybe some fun glow in the dark stickers. Remember that this is their bedroom, so work with them to make it their own.
Carefully consider the use of different materials and try to stay away from artificial air fresheners, noisy flooring (such as laminate) and fluorescent lights, all of which can cause havoc with overactive senses.
Of course, these are only considerations to keep in mind when designing a safe haven for your child. Each individual is different, so be sure to adhere to their personal needs. Designing a bedroom for your little one should be a fun and exciting experience for you and your child, so work together and create something amazing!
Do you have any tried and tested techniques for tackling autism sleep problems in adults or children? We’d love to hear them. Join the conversation with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and make sure to use #AutisticSleep and don't forget to check out the results of our study!