Autism is a disability that affects how people experience the world and interact with others. According to the National Autistic Society, more than 1 in 100 people have autism. People of all different backgrounds can be autistic and experience it more or less severely.
One characteristic that lots of autistic people share is an over- or under-sensitivity to sound, light, colour, touch and temperature. Low and high sensory stimulation can sometimes cause people with autism significant distress. This is particularly true for autistic children.
Sensory sensitivity is a reason why many people who have or know autistic children choose to make special adaptations to their home. Lots of these are easy to do and can really help children deal with sensory imbalance. If you have or know autistic children, keep reading to find out 4 ways to adapt your own home for autistic children.
1. Create soft lighting and acoustics
One thing you can do to adapt your home is alter your lighting. If you have strong, bright lighting, try swapping it for soft and natural light. This is more likely to create a calm and focused environment for autistic children.
It’s also a good idea to pay attention to your home acoustics. Try adapting echoey spaces by adding soft furniture, carpets, rugs and curtains. These will soak up and soften sounds and make these areas more comfortable spaces for autistic children to be.
2. Assign spaces for specific activities
Another way to adapt your home for autistic children is to assign spaces for specific activities. Some autistic children can find it difficult to eat and sleep, which can be distressing for both them and their carers. Creating specific spaces where these are the only activities that take place can help to prepare them and settle them into the activity.
For example, if you usually eat in the dining room, change it so this is the only place that you eat and relocate equipment for other activities to different spaces. This way, children are more likely to be prepared to eat when entering the dining room and are less likely to get distracted.
You can do this for other rooms in your home too. Make sure that bedrooms are only for sleeping in and any workspace is where children do quiet, focused activities. You can create a fun space too, where children know that they can enjoy creative and energetic activities.
3. Colour-code your rooms
Colour is another element that autistic children can be particularly sensitive to. There is research that suggests that colour and mood are closely related and this link can be very relevant for children with autism.
So if you can, try to link your room colour scheme with the activity that usually takes place there. Paint children’s bedrooms dark colours to reduce light reflection and encourage sleep. Use multiple bright colours in fun activity spaces and light, cool colours in any work areas. Blue is a particularly good choice as it’s been claimed to be both calming and stimulate creativity.
4. Include sensory integration tools
Sensory integration tools can be very helpful for children with autism. These are mostly household objects that can provide children with enjoyable sensory stimulation. They are particularly helpful for autistic children who need to self-calm after experiencing sensory overload.
There are lots of places in your home where you can slot in a sensory tool or two. Get a massage jet for your bath and large pillows and weighted blankets for bedrooms and relaxing areas. Fit in a rocking chair or two where you can or a swing if you’re feeling adventurous. Other great tools include slides, climbing frames and mini-trampolines.
So if you want to transform your home into a more enjoyable place for autistic children to be, there are plenty of ways to do so. A few small changes can make the world of difference and turn your home into a more positive environment for any small autistic visitors or inhabitants and everyone else.