Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Designing a new bedroom for my autistic kids

Child sleeping

None of our children sleep great. Estimates say between 50% and 90% of autistic people have some sleeping difficulties, whether that's going to sleep, staying asleep or sleeping at the wrong time - and that's just when things are normal.  And sleep is just one function of a bedroom. When it comes to our autistic kids there's lots to think about. 

Over the years we've seen a few sleep specialists and received lots of advice for our boys who have ASD and ADHD. Though it didn't all work for us, there's lots that can be tried to help children feel calm, safe and ready for sleep during this stressful period. But there's more to a bedroom than sleep.

We need to think about sensory needs and functionality along with promoting independence, safety and personality too. A lot goes into designing a bedroom that meets their needs and preferences.  As a parent there can be a lot of pressure to get this right, so here are some things you can think about. Remember you know your kids best so what do you think will work? When all you want is the best for your child, guidelines and intricacies can be overwhelming as a parent.

Creating a calm and ready sleeping environment

Even if they aren't worried about something, we can help our kids by telling their body it's time to sleep.  It can help to keep your room dark at night - so think about low lighting and try not to have blue light before bed (you can set many tablets and phones to 'night mode' to take out the blue light on a timer). Rooms can be decorated in calming neutral colours think greyed blues, browns and greys as these can also help their mind to relax.

Weighted blankets or tight blankets can help some kids relax with the pressure against their body.  A canopy over a bed or bed tent can make some kids feel more secure and a silk pillow or pillowcase can prevent those with skin sensitivities feeling irritated or those seeking comfort from soft surroundings.  Keep a bed for sleeping too - don't fill it with toys or other things that will distract them from their role of going to sleep.  

Promote their interests 

Special interests are great for some kids as a way of engaging them with others and relaxing.  Anthony's room would not be his without the shelves of Formula One items, copies of Autosport or Lewis Hamilton on the wall. Having things to concentrate on will work for some kids and distract others.  

In David's room wall decorations and shelves all go behind his bed so they are out of sight when he is trying to go to sleep as they are distraction.  For Anthony, being able to focus on a list of Formula One facts helps him go to sleep so it's all down to what works for your child.   

We can design an area that is there own whilst explaining what to you use things for for example using  label what they do eg 'sleep' near the bed or 'what shall I wear?' near their wardrobe.

Designing around their sensory needs

If they do spend time in their room then helping with their sensory needs can keep them regulated.  We have a trampette or sometimes called a mini trampoline like the ones used in fitness fads not that long ago for David to jump about on. Anthony has a big bean bag chair but a therapy peanut works well too.  For years we have been doing everything for Anthony. 

Yes a weighted blanket and low lighting can help for sleep, but some kids benefit from sensory lighting and something that plays music or a screen to calm down too.  Just make sure these things can be 'put away' or covered or be inaccessible (but in a safe way) so at night the bedroom is for sleep only. 

Helping with organisation and independence

My kids struggle with organisation.  It's a challenge for many kids and can especially difficult for those like our son, Anthony, with autism and ADHD or other special educational needs.  Whilst it's easy to get into the routine of doing everything for them, helping them build independence is equally important.

Anthony isn't going to become organised over night but his room can help.   Having everything out so he can see it doesn't really work for him.  There's too many things to look at, put simply, it's too visually stimulating and he can't focus on anything.  Having his belongings  away in drawers or boxes helps.

An Armoire is a freestanding wooden wardrobe that often includes internal shelves and drawers along the bottom.  Ours looks a bit like a short wardrobe on top of a set of six drawers. This gives our kids the ability to itemise all their clothes in one place.  Each drawer has an allocated item of clothing, eg socks, t-shirts etc and school uniform and hanging items go in the hanging space.  We also use (*try and use) the Marie Kondo method for storing clothes as it makes it easy to see and take items out without making a mess.

Other items can be stored away in boxes.  We have storage bins and cubes. Fabric storage cubes are great because when they are not in use they can be collapsed.  We have ours in wooden cubed shelves to they are easy to look into and put away.  Some kids may benefit from having their drawers and boxes labelled so they know where to find things easily. 

We're in the process of the kids swopping rooms (don't ask, we just have too) so if you've got any other ideas, I'd love to hear them. 

5 comments:

  1. As mom to an autistic son, I love this. My son's room is quite different from his siblings' rooms and meets his needs. A calm, safe space is important. Thanks for linking up. #KCACOLS

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  2. Interesting. I've not thought about this before. Your posts often provide an insight into what we take for granted (or are oblivious to). #KCACOLS

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  3. We've created a great little wardrobe organiser to help with the organisation of clothes with our little ones which might help you. It also been having great reviews from parents in the autistic community. It can be found here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07Z99SY14 (This is not an ad or a request to buy it or anything, i just thought it might help).

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  4. This is so interesting. I definitely want to try a weighted blanket for my daughter. It's never occurred to me to put a trampoline in her bedroom but it would be much safer than her jumping off the top bunk all the time! Thanks for the info and thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS :)

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  5. I like how you've explained that both boys rooms are different because they both have different needs and that it's not a one size fits all approach. Growing up my bedroom was very important for the reasons you've outlined above. It was my space, it met my needs, it was what I wanted. It was the only aspect of my life that I felt like I fit. Every other room in the house was tolerable but only my room felt like home.

    Katrina x
    #KCACOLS

    ReplyDelete

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