Need To Calm Down? There’s a Space For That!
Creating calming and sensory-friendly spaces in the home.
Home. It’s where we are most comfortable and secure. It’s where we can be free to unwind and relax after a long day. We usually know exactly where to go to do just that. Our room, favorite chair or spot on the couch.
Home should be this way for kids with autism too. Yet if kids have difficulty with self-regulation or have sensory issues home may not feel this way to them.
Does your child feel at home in spite of their sensory processing?
The good thing is you can help your child feel at home by creating calming and sensory-friendly spaces. Keep reading for some tips on how to do just that.
Knowing Your Child’s Sensory Needs
Kids with sensory issues often have difficulty taking in information through their senses. They process things differently. The things they see, hear, touch, smell or taste can be challenging, no matter where they are, including home.
Home needs to be set up for them so that they can have a break from the world. It needs to be more than just sending your child to their room and shutting the door though. Creating calming spaces that are geared specifically to your kiddo’s needs is key.
Take note of your child at home and make a list of things and spaces they gravitate towards and triggers that set them off.
Is there a fragrance they don’t like? Too much light in an area? A favorite corner they gravitate towards? Knowing these types of things in your child can be your guide as you create calming and sensory-friendly spaces throughout your home.
Kids love having choices and options, your child should have different places they can go to calm down or relax. So where can your child go in your home?
One place to start is their bedroom. Whether it’s to calm down from sensory overload or simply just wanting a break to play, the bedroom should be a reflection of your child so they can be in that spot without having to worry about their sensory input.
Moving beyond bedrooms it’s a good idea to have other spaces where your kid can retreat. Perhaps your child prefers quiet spots and a room that gets less traffic can be a place for them. Maybe your child loves to move around and the basement, which provides space to run and jump, is a good area for them.
Sensory Friendly Spaces
Once you figure out where the calming spaces are in your home, it’s time to bring in tools to make it more sensory friendly.
To help kids feel like their bedroom is their domain take stock of things like temperature, lighting, and sounds and make adjustments if needed. If your child is old enough, get them involved to help arrange furniture, select decor or make changes.
I had a client whose room was in front of the house and got a lot of road noise. A white sound machine helped fix that problem. Another client’s bedroom got the afternoon sun, room darkening shades resolved that issue. Taking it a step further, I had another client who absolutely loved dinosaurs so his room was covered from floor to ceiling with dinosaurs. It was his space to play and talk about dinosaurs all he wanted.
Depending on your child’s sensory needs, bring in equipment or toys and set them up in their favorite places around your home. Let’s say your child self regulates through deep pressure or jumping. Set up a foam cushion chair or mini trampoline. If your child calms by playing with fidgets or chewing make sure they have easy access to those things.
It’s also a good idea to make any necessary adjustments throughout your entire home to help your child feel more comfortable. Little things like the type of light bulbs used or putting up visuals can make a world of difference.
Creating calming and sensory friendly spaces in the home can have such a positive impact on your child. Following these tips will ensure that when your kid walks through the front door they will truly feel at home.
Elizabeth Purpero is a licensed school counselor and licensed professional counselor-in-training. She has her master’s in counseling psychology. Elizabeth has worked as an autism therapist with children and teens. During her career, she has worked in intensive at-home therapy programs utilizing ABA and play therapy along with OT and speech therapy techniques. She has also worked as a mental health therapist helping clients address their mental health issues as it relates to autism. Elizabeth’s background working with the autism community has greatly helped her work with students in schools too. She has helped teachers implement effective strategies, create goals for IEP’s and make classrooms more sensory-friendly. Mark Twain once said, “Write what you know about,” and Elizabeth enjoys writing about autism-related topics and providing additional resources to help those impacted by autism.