If you have a little one with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you know she faces struggles that many of us don’t understand. Living with a sensory-processing disorder can make the world a confusing and overwhelming place, filled with sights, sounds, and smells that trigger feelings of anxiety or even full-on meltdowns. As a parent, you want to do everything you can to protect your child. While you can’t change the entire world around her, you can help her feel more secure at home — and her bedroom is a great place to start.
There are a lot of DIY projects that will help create a sensory-friendly bedroom for a child with autism, and many don’t take a lot of skills or equipment. Our guide discusses the projects that can make a huge difference in your little one’s safety, comfort, and overall well-being.
Keep in mind that although there are many home improvements you can do yourself that will make your child’s bedroom a more soothing space, some projects aren’t DIY-friendly and require the help of a pro. Always keep safety in mind — don’t take on a task unless you’re completely confident in your abilities to DIY the job.
Paint It a Calming Color
Tranquil, muted hues are great choices for any bedroom, but especially for kids on the autism spectrum. Shades of light blue, pale green, and warm beige help promote a sense of calm during playtime and bedtime, and they’re less stimulating (and less boring) than white. If your child’s bedroom walls currently contain a bold, bright color or a busy pattern, breaking out the paint rollers can help soothe autism symptoms like overstimulation and sleep disturbances.
Rethink Your Flooring
Many children with autism feel more at ease when they touch soft textures. Plus, if your little one is prone to meltdowns, hard flooring can be uncomfortable and even dangerous in these situations. It can be helpful to add soft flooring if your child’s room consists of hardwood or tile, either by adding in area rugs or refinishing the space with carpeting. While it’s easy to add area rugs, only skilled DIYers should add carpeting without the help of a professional, but because it can make a huge difference in your child’s comfort, it’s a worthwhile investment.
Of course, every child is different. If yours seems more at ease on hard surfaces, make adjustments accordingly. Again, replacing flooring isn’t always an easy job for homeowners who don’t consider themselves handy, so it may be best to hire a professional. If your budget doesn’t have room for an experienced installer, there are plenty of online tutorials that can be helpful in adding tile and even hardwood flooring.
Cut Out the Clutter
Being surrounded by clutter is mentally exhausting for anyone, but it can be especially overwhelming for children on the autism spectrum. Implement a storage system for toys, books, and other items to create a more organized environment. You can DIY built-in shelving that’s covered with a curtain to keep it from looking too busy. Color-coded bins are also a great way to store belongings and simplify tidying up after a play session.
A kid’s bedroom serves as so much more than a place to sleep. It’s also where they create, play, and wind down during the day, so try to separate these areas as much as possible. The idea is for sleeping spaces to be secluded from play areas so children aren’t distracted or stimulated when it’s time to hit the hay. Organizing the room while you’re tackling clutter issues is an easy way to add some structure to the space, or you can build room separators to make a large room more compartmentalized.
Adjust the Lighting
Bright lights, both natural and artificial, can cause stress in kids with ASD. Plus, excess light in the evening can be stimulating and make it difficult for children of any ability to fall and stay asleep. To combat these issues, do a lighting audit in your little one’s bedroom, and address potential stressors using these strategies:
- Switch fluorescent bulbs to ones that emit softer light. Fluorescent light is especially harsh and overwhelming.
- Consider installing a ceiling fan with a soft light. This will create a comforting ambience, especially in rooms that tend to get too warm. As a bonus, turning an overhead fan on a low setting is usually more sensory-friendly than using floor versions, which tend to be noisy and may blow air directly on a child, which could be bothersome.
- For rooms that let in an ample amount of natural light, consider adding a floor lamp or two. This way, you can rely mostly on sunlight during the day, and use lamps to brighten things up ever so slightly in the evening as needed.
- Add curtains, blinds, or shades to windows. You’ll have a quick way to adjust the amount of light coming in both day and night.
No one wants their bedroom to let in a lot of noise from external sources, but loud bedrooms can be extremely upsetting for children with autism. There are a lot of easy DIY projects that can help reduce noise, like adding double-paned windows, a more soundproof door, and even blackout curtains.
In extreme situations, it may be helpful to move your child’s bedroom to a different floor. If she’s currently on the first story and too much noise comes in from the street and an upstairs space directly above hers, consider moving her to a higher story.
Add a Safe Space
While you’ll always do your best to be there to comfort your child, it’s helpful for her to have an area that helps her feel secure when she starts feeling stressed. Sensory swings, hammocks, and even bean bag chairs can all be havens for kids who need to decompress, and they’re easy DIY projects (even for beginners!). You can also sew a weighted blanket, which your child can use anywhere in the home when she’s feeling overwhelmed.
Scent can be a powerful tool in promoting a sense of calm. Aromatherapy using calming aloe, lavender, eucalyptus, or any other scent that makes your little one feel more at ease can be a great addition to their bedroom.
Be sure you’re mindful of safety when adding this element to a child-friendly space. Candles, incense, and even plug-in air fresheners may pose safety hazards for curious kids, but there are ways to incorporate it that involve DIY projects you and your child you can work on together. Consider adding essential oil to wax and making crayons or hand-sewing scent-infused comfort items.
Switch Up the Bedding
It’s important for children to be as comfortable as possible when it’s time to drift off to slumberland. If you’ve taken action in other parts of your child’s bedroom but she’s still having trouble sleeping, her bedding may be to blame, especially if it’s scratchy, thin, or otherwise worn out. Replace her pillows, sheets, and comforter with more soothing options. A lot of children with ASD gravitate to soft, cotton-based fabrics, but let her favorite clothing guide you to the right solution. You can buy premade items, but sewing your own is an easy DIY project. Making pillows is a simple activity for all skill levels, and there are a lot of great online tutorials that will help you create a quilt.
Talk to Your Child About Her Needs
Even young children and those with severe ASD symptoms will be able to communicate their needs to some degree. As often as possible, talk to your little one about what changes would make her feel more at ease, and work to incorporate them. Kids of all abilities feel more secure when they have a say in their environment and routine, and your child may alert you to triggers you didn’t think about.
It’s important for all children to feel safe and at ease at home, especially in their bedrooms, but there are special considerations parents of children with autism should make to give their little ones the comforting space they need. By rolling up your sleeves and spending some time on the DIY projects that will help create a more sensory-friendly bedroom, you’ll give your child peace of mind from sunup to sundown.