Children with special needs see their bedrooms in different ways. For kids with autism, sensory processing disorder or developmental disabilities, their bedroom is their escape from an overwhelming world—the one place where they can relax and recharge when their day gets too stressful. For children who are ill or homebound, on the other hand, it can feel like a box they’re confined to day in and day out.
That’s why it’s so important to customize your child’s bedroom to their personality and special needs. Together, you and your little one can dream up a comfortable, welcoming sanctuary that gives them a safe space to play, learn and imagine, and most importantly, forget about the struggles they face on a daily basis.
Here are some recommendations to keep in mind as you and child play interior designer:
- Give them the freedom to move – If your child uses a wheelchair or walker, replacing carpet with hardwood and creating a full circle of space in the middle of the room allows them to maneuver without obstruction. Check the doorway clearance as well—the area must be at least 32 inches wide for a wheelchair to move through.
- Control colors and light – Intense wall colors like hot pink and bright turquoise, fluorescent lights, and busy wall art and posters can overstimulate children, especially those with autism and anxiety. Instead, choose softer hues of blue and green and go for natural or incandescent light.
- Keep germs and dust mites in check – To help children with breathing issues or compromised immune systems, go for fixtures, décor and furniture that can be easily cleaned on a daily basis—for instance, choose vinyl blinds instead of curtains and hardwood instead of carpet. Keep dust-collecting clutter to a minimum and use allergen-impermeable covers for bedding.
- Get organized – You and your child can develop an organization system that makes finding toys easier and eliminates the disorder than can compromise their mobility. Make sure all shelves are in easy reach and that drawers, toy boxes and closet doors can be easily opened.
- Design a quiet corner – Children who get overstimulated easily can benefit from a sensory area that reduces the risk of meltdowns. Start with a beanbag, sensory pod swing or puffy pillows and add in imaginative or building toys, books, squishies, and calm-down items like glitter jars, essential oil-infused rice bags and kinetic sand.
- Create a sensory input station – On the flip side, some children with special needs are sensory seekers. If this is the case and if space allows, designate one area of the room for movement-based input. Integrate items like a mini trampoline with handle, rocking toys, bouncing seat (such as a Rody horse), or therapy ball into the mix.
- Take a look at the bed – Kids roll out of bed all the time, but if a child with a disability falls from their bed to the ground, their injuries can be severe. To protect your child’s safety, consider different options based on their needs, such as grab bars, bed rails or an adjustable bed. If your child’s disability significantly impacts their mobility, a ceiling lift may be the best way to transport them from their bed to their wheelchair.
For additional recommendations on creating the ultimate at-home getaway for your child, talk with their physical or occupational therapist. They can recommend room layouts, products and furniture that will give your child the freedom and independence they crave and give you peace of mind knowing that they’re playing safely in a bedroom they love.