Updated: Sep 13
This weeks article comes to us from Janice Russell. Founder of Parenting Disasters, find out more about Janice HERE
Are you frustrated by your child’s sleep problems or reluctance to sleep in his own bedroom? Sleep problems are common in children with autism — an estimated 80% of children on the spectrum have sleep issues. Many factors contribute to sleep problems in children with autism, but one that’s often overlooked is their sleep environment.
Children with autism spectrum disorder are sensitive to their surroundings. That’s especially true for children with both autism and sensory processing disorder. Things that are a minor annoyance to you, like a ticking clock or scratchy sheets, can be overwhelming to a child with sensory issues. A child who is overstimulated in the bedroom will struggle to fall asleep, and may avoid the bedroom entirely.
Designing a bedroom for a child with autism requires taking those unique sensory needs into account. It also means being realistic about the practical aspects of a special needs child’s bedroom, like safety and ease of clean-up.
These three design rules will help you create a soothing bedroom that your child enjoys spending time in so everyone will get a better night’s sleep.
1. Block outside light and sound
A child’s bedroom doesn’t start with what’s within it, but rather what’s outside of it. Outside noise and light, whether from your home or your neighborhood, cause difficulty falling asleep.
Window treatments are the first line of defense against light. Cordless blinds are ideal for daytime light control, but after dark, blackout shades are best. Some homeowners worry blackout shades are too harsh in appearance, but there are beautiful shades that blend into your home décor. Drapes are another lovely way to soften the appearance of shades and blinds.
Parents should also keep electronics out of a child’s bedroom to reduce nighttime hyperarousal and distracting lights. A nightlight is ok if your child prefers it, but choose a red-toned light rather than blue.
Window treatments also help with sound control, but for further noise reduction, install carpet, and replace the bedroom door with a solid-core door. In areas with a lot of outside noise, acoustic panels are a worthy investment.
2. Keep décor soothing and simple
It’s not unusual for a child’s bedroom to be the most brightly-decorated room in the house. But for children with autism, soft, serene colors are the better choice.
Soft blues and grays are the most popular choices for bedroom walls, but a pale shade of your child’s favorite color is also an excellent option. See Behr’s most popular bedroom colors for inspiration. Avoid bright colors and patterned walls, which are highly stimulating.
Less is more when it comes to furniture too. Children with autism tend to prefer clean, organized spaces over visually-cluttered rooms. By choosing multi-purpose furniture, like a bench that doubles as a toy chest or a bed with built-in storage, you create a calming space that still has everything a child wants in their bedroom. Less furniture also means fewer things to clean, which brings us to the next tip!
3. Choose easy-clean materials
Although kids on the spectrum thrive on routines and orderliness, they also tend to have problems with organizational skills. Combined with common issues like bedwetting, this can make for a messy bedroom.
Simplify upkeep by choosing materials that are easy to clean, like non-upholstered furniture and carpet tiles. A waterproof mattress cover is key for bedwetting children, as are sheets and blankets that stand up to repeated washing. If your child uses a weighted blanket, add a waterproof duvet cover, as it will be easier on your washing machine than a heavy blanket.
Toy organization is another way to manage messes in your child’s bedroom. While many parents enjoy keeping kids’ toys on display in the bedroom, storing toys in labeled storage cubes is better for clean-up and can add to the room’s décor.
Click HERE to read further an article that discusses, Autism and Computers: What Parents Need to Know— The article includes strategies such as:
Utilizing augmented communication resources to promote independence by synthesizing basic voice commands to speech-generating devices
Teaching children social thinking by utilizing interactive software to decipher the understanding of expected and unexpected social behavior
Using apps to create auditory sensory-friendly environments to avoid sensory overload and still experience situations and events
For the many families who have a loved one with sensory processing disorder, their love and care is what makes the difference in the manageability of daily life. The pre-bedtime routine and sleep itself, are important to both the child and their parents.
Parents with children who have SPD know that routine and a proper sensory diet are crucial to bedtime. Click HERE to find a helpful guide, that Slumber Yard has provided that helps inform parents and caregivers about creating bedtime-friendly daily routines and identifying sleep disruptors, along with helpful tips and tricks for sensory-seekers and sensory-avoiders.
Sleep problems are one of the leading frustrations for parents of children with autism. Without proper sleep, life with autism is harder on everyone. By using design to create a soothing, sensory-friendly space for your child, you can help your child — and yourself — get some quality rest.
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