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Designing a Room for a Child With Autism? Keep These Considerations in Mind

From homes to doctors' offices, many buildings incorporate bright colors, busy patterns, and contemporary materials into their design schemes. These common design elements are meant to be enjoyable and inviting, but this is usually not the case for a person on the autism spectrum. An individual with autism is often hyper-sensitive to his sensory surroundings, and he is typically most comfortable in a calm and soothing environment that caters to his preferences. There are several easy ways to make any space more inviting to people with autism.

Keep Things Natural

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People with autism typically process their natural environments easier than man-made spaces. Opt for neutral colors such as beige and tan and soothing shades of blue and green, and cover hardwood floors with naturally woven rugs with soothing textures. Choose wooden furniture over metal or plastic, and use lamps and soft lighting instead of florescent. Take advantage of large, open windows, especially those with unobstructed views of nature. A window provides beneficial natural lighting, but outside distractions such as people or traffic may require blinds or curtains.

Create Distinct Spaces

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Familiarity helps people with autism cope with changes and transitions. It's often easier to focus on tasks such as eating, sleeping, or learning when the activity has its own familiar location. Designated areas for sleeping and dining are important for all ages. Distraction-free zones set up solely for homework and studying are beneficial to school-age children. Also consider integrating space for special interests and projects, such as a Lego room or an art table, and a private neutral area for escaping.

Minimize Noise With Functional Accessories

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Seemingly ordinary sounds such as the hum of nearby traffic, a distant television, or a tumbling dryer are often bothersome to individuals with autism. Acoustic wall panels and flooring are one option, but soft blankets, rugs and oversized pillows also help absorb sound, and they're multifunctional. Well-organized bookcases and storage units help minimize clutter and serve as sound buffers when placed against shared walls. Cork boards cut down on outside noise as well. The natural material is typically autism-friendly, and the board offers a versatile display area for artwork, achievements and photos.

Consider the Individual

Autism is a large spectrum of disorders, and every person with autism is unique. At home, integrate your loved one's preferred colors, patterns and interests into the design. Be patient, as it may take some trial and error to get it just right. Hanging swings and mathematical wall art aren't uncommon in autism-friendly living spaces. Light dimmers, quiet spaces, and removable accessories make it easier to cater to individual preferences in classrooms, medical facilities, and other public spaces.

Need more design inspiration? This multi-sensory room is full of ideas, and it was created for a child with autism.

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