Organizing Home Spaces For Autistic Kids

how to organize a house for autistic kids

Creating a comfortable and functional home environment is crucial when accommodating the needs of autistic children. Autistic individuals often face challenges in navigating their surroundings due to heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli. Therefore, organising a house to cater to their unique needs is essential. This involves making thoughtful design choices and establishing routines that promote a sense of calm and predictability. From adapting lighting and colour schemes to implementing storage solutions and sensory-friendly spaces, there are numerous ways to create an autism-friendly home.

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Create a sensory-friendly safe space

Creating a sensory-friendly safe space is crucial for autistic children to have a place of comfort and calm in their homes. Here are some ways to achieve this:

Lighting and Colours

Avoid bright lights, especially white lights, as they can distort colours and strobe at high frequencies, which may trigger headaches and seizures. Instead, opt for yellow lights and use dimmer switches to control the intensity of the lighting. It is also beneficial to use blackout curtains or shades to block out natural light when needed. When choosing colours for the walls, warm, neutral shades, and tones of blue, green, and purple are ideal. These colours are soothing and comforting. Avoid bright hues like reds, oranges, and yellows, as they may overstimulate.

Flooring

Consider the flooring as children with autism are often sensitive to sounds. Natural wood is a great option as it absorbs sound and is soft and warm. Carpets are another option, but choose solid colours and avoid patterns like checkerboard effects.

Storage and Organisation

Plan for plenty of storage to avoid clutter, which can be frustrating for autistic children. Use clear stackable drawers or bins to store toys and games, and label them with words, pictures, or symbols that your child understands. Under-bed storage drawers are perfect for items that need to be kept out of sight.

Sensory Deprivation Area

Set up a small sensory deprivation area within the room, such as a teepee in the corner or a canopy over a pile of pillows. Include items like soft pillows, weighted blankets, noise-cancelling headphones, and your child's preferred fidget toys. This area provides a dedicated space for your child to calm down and encourages self-regulation.

Scents

Avoid strong scents as they can be overwhelming. Instead, opt for natural scents from plants, fresh flowers, or fresh fruits. If using an oil diffuser, choose scents like lavender and eucalyptus to help your child relax.

Safety

Ensure all storage units, doors, and windows can be locked or secured. Soften hard corners and cover wall sockets to prevent any injuries. Consider your child's specific needs and make necessary adjustments, such as creating a designated climbing area with padded sections if your child is a skilled climber.

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Invest in sensory-friendly furniture

When designing a room for a child with autism, it's important to remember that décor should be functional and calming. To create a safe and comfortable space, you should consider investing in sensory-friendly furniture. This can include a variety of items to cater to different sensory needs.

Firstly, it's important to create a dedicated space for your child to retreat to when they feel overwhelmed or need some alone time. This could be their bedroom, or a designated area within the house. This space should be free from clutter and have plenty of room for your child to move around. To make the area extra comfortable, you could invest in a giant bean bag chair or a body pillow. These can provide a soft and inviting space for your child to relax and unwind.

Another important aspect to consider is the use of sensory-friendly bedding. Soft, cotton sheets with a high thread count are ideal as they provide a smooth and consistent texture. Weighted sheets or blankets can also provide comfort and a sense of security for your child. These can be used on the bed or in a designated sensory deprivation area, such as a small teepee or a canopy with pillows.

Lighting can also play a crucial role in creating a sensory-friendly environment. To avoid overstimulation, it is recommended to use yellow lights instead of white lights, which can distort colours and cause strobing at high frequencies. Dimmer switches can also be installed to allow your child to control the intensity of the lighting in their space. Blackout curtains are another useful investment, as they can help block out natural light when needed and create a completely darkened room, which can be calming for children with autism.

Lastly, consider the flooring in your child's room or designated space. Natural wood is a great option as it absorbs sound and provides a soft and warm surface. Alternatively, you can use carpeted floors, but avoid patterns such as checkerboard effects, as these can be distracting.

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Clear the clutter

Clutter can be a source of great frustration for autistic children, so it is important to keep the house as clear and organised as possible.

Firstly, declutter each room of your home. Work with your children to establish what they are willing to throw away, what can be put into storage, and what needs to remain out. Take a picture of each room when it is clean and hang it up where everyone can see it. This will serve as a reminder of how the room should look and will encourage children to keep it that way.

Next, store important items within sight so they are easily found. Use wall shelves to store toys, books, and games, and invest in large plastic bins for larger collections of items such as trucks, plastic figurines, video games, and stuffed animals. Label the bins with both a picture of the item and its name, and rotate large collections so that part of the collection is always out.

Keep coats, boots, keys, remote controls, and kitchen utensils near where you use them most often. Put coats and boots near the door, hang keys on a ring in the foyer, and place remote controls in a basket by the couch.

It is also important to plan plenty of storage for your child's bedroom. Under-bed storage drawers are ideal for items that need to be kept out of sight, and toys and games can be stored in clear stackable drawers. These should be labelled with words, pictures, or symbols according to what your child understands best.

Finally, minimise visual clutter by adopting a minimal décor style. When choosing wall art, limit yourself to one frame per wall. Choose natural landscapes or abstract prints with spirals and soft curves, and avoid any art with sharp lines and angles.

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Store items within sight

Storing items within sight is a great way to ensure that important items are easily found. This is especially beneficial for autistic children, who thrive in organised and predictable environments. Using shallow wall shelves, you can store toys, books, and games within plain sight. For larger items, such as trucks, plastic figurines, video games, and stuffed animals, opt for large plastic bins. Clear, stackable drawers or fabric baskets with windows are ideal for this purpose, as they allow the child to see what is inside and provide easy labelling.

It is important to label the bins with both a picture of the item and its name. This helps the child identify the contents and promotes independence in finding their desired items. Additionally, consider rotating large collections so that only a portion is out at a time, reducing clutter and promoting a sense of organisation. Colour-coding the bins can also be helpful, providing visual reminders of where things belong.

For frequently used items, such as coats, boots, keys, and kitchen utensils, designate specific places where they are easily accessible and visible. For example, use a coat rack or hook near the door for coats and boots, and keep keys on a ring in the foyer. In the kitchen, store utensils within reach of where they are most often used, making it convenient for the child to access them independently.

By storing items within sight, you not only make it easier for autistic children to locate what they need but also contribute to a calm and organised environment that supports their overall well-being.

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Keep items within easy reach

Making items easily accessible is an important part of organising a house for autistic children. Here are some tips to achieve this:

Everyday Items

Everyday items such as coats, boots, keys, remote controls, and kitchen utensils should be placed where they are most often used. For example, install a coat rack or hook near the door for coats and keys. Keep television and game console controllers in a basket on an end table next to the couch.

Storage

Use clear, shallow wall shelves to store toys, books, and games within plain sight. For larger items, such as trucks, plastic figurines, video games, and stuffed animals, invest in large, stackable plastic bins. Label these bins with both pictures and words to help your child find what they are looking for. You can also colour-code the bins to provide helpful reminders of where things belong.

Accessibility

Make sure items are stored within easy reach for your child. For example, under-bed storage drawers are ideal for items that need to be kept out of sight. Toys and games can be stored in clear, stackable drawers that can be pulled out and reached easily.

Routine

Establish a routine for your child by keeping important items such as schoolwork, toys, crafts, and books in set locations. This will provide comfort and predictability, allowing your child to know where to find things when they need them.

Sensory Items

If your child uses sensory items, such as a body sock, weighted blanket, or sensory ball, make sure these are easily accessible as well. These items can help your child calm down and regulate their senses, so it is important that they can reach them without assistance.

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Frequently asked questions

It is important to create a calm, soothing, and organized space for your child. It should be a sanctuary where they can relax and feel comfortable. If your child does not have their own bedroom, work with them to choose a place they can go when they feel like they are on sensory overload or simply want to be alone. Make sure this space has plenty of room for your child to pace and is within hearing range of the rest of the house.

Invest in sensory-friendly furniture such as bean bag chairs, body pillows, weighted blankets, standing desks, and blackout curtains. Be sure to choose these items with your child and have them try them out before you buy them.

Bright hues like reds, oranges, and yellows may overstimulate the mind of a child with autism. Opt for warm, neutral shades and tones of blue, green, and purple. These colours are comforting and soothing. You can also use shades of soft grey. Avoid patterns like plaids and polka dots as these may distract the child.

Lighting has a big impact on a child's sensory system. Avoid white lights as they can distort colours and strobe at high frequencies. Use yellow lights instead. The room should be planned so that it can be completely darkened at night, so use blackout curtains or shades on the windows. Use dimmer switches on all lights so that the intensity of the light can be controlled.

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