Creating an autism-friendly home environment involves understanding the individual needs and sensory preferences of the autistic person living in the space. People with autism often experience the world differently, particularly in terms of sensory input. Too much or too little stimulation can lead to distress and difficulty in daily activities. As such, tailoring your home’s design to provide an accommodating, comfortable environment is crucial.
This article will walk you through some key design and sensory considerations to help you create an autism-friendly home.
Understanding Sensory Sensitivities
Many people with autism have heightened or reduced sensitivity to certain sensory inputs – this can be in terms of sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste. A key first step in creating an autism-friendly home is understanding these sensitivities and accommodating them. For instance, if an individual is sensitive to bright lights, you might choose to install dimmable lights or use soft, warm lighting. If they are sensitive to loud noises, you might invest in soundproofing or provide noise-cancelling headphones.
Creating Safe Spaces
A safe space is a designated area where an autistic person can retreat when they feel overwhelmed or in need of quiet time. This can be a specific room, a tent, or even a corner of a room with a beanbag chair. It’s important to equip this area with items that provide comfort and relaxation, like weighted blankets or an autistic toy that can help with self-soothing.
Incorporating Clear Boundaries & Organisation
Clarity and routine are comforting for many people with autism – creating clear boundaries within your home’s layout can help. This could mean different rooms for different activities, or it could be as simple as different sections within a room. Consistent organisation can also reduce stress; try to maintain order and predictability in terms of where items are placed and how rooms are arranged.
Sensory integration activities can help people with autism to manage their sensitivities and can be easily incorporated into your home environment. For example, you could install a swing or hammock for vestibular input or use textured wallpapers and fabrics for tactile stimulation. In the bedroom, a weighted blanket can provide calming deep pressure input.
Choosing the Right Colours
Colours have a profound impact on mood and well-being. Soft, cool colours like blues and greens are generally calming, while bright, warm colours like red and orange can be overstimulating for some. However, personal colour preferences should always be taken into account.
Sound can greatly impact an autistic individual’s comfort in their environment – use materials that minimise noise, like carpeting, and choose quiet appliances. White noise machines or soft background music can also be helpful for some.
Using Familiar & Safe Materials
For individuals with tactile sensitivities, the materials used in the home are crucial. Natural materials like cotton, wood, and wool are often more comforting than synthetics.
Adjusting to Changes
Change can be challenging for people with autism, so any modifications to the home should ideally be done gradually.
By implementing these design and sensory considerations, you can make your home a more autism-friendly environment. Remember, every person with autism is unique, so it’s important to tailor your approach to their specific needs and preferences. Creating a comforting, safe, and supportive home environment can greatly enhance their wellbeing and daily life.